Saturday, January 10, 2009

An unusually heavy snowfall has forced closure of the Madrid airport

An unusually heavy snowfall has hit downtown Madrid, shutting down the city’s airport but providing rare opportunities for snowball fights while intrepid golfers drove balls into the storm.

Flights in and out of Barajas international airport were stopped for nearly six hours during the daytime because of the snow. It snows nearly every year in Madrid but rarely does it strike the city centre.

Spain’s National Meteorological Agency estimated the snowfall could reach five centimetres. Rivera said the last time central Madrid had a similar amount of snow was February 23, 2001.

The snow brought traffic to a halt on several main roads leading into and out of the capital and authorities urged people to travel by public transport.

The inclement weather provided children with the rare opportunity to throw snowballs and golfers continued teeing-off at a city-centre practice range.

Heavy snow also snarled traffic in the northeast regions of Cataluna and Aragon, in Valencia to the east and southern Murcia.

The weather was a continuation of a spell of freezing temperatures and snow that swept central Europe this week.

It shut airports in Milan and was blamed for at least 12 deaths across the continent. The weather system is expected to move out of Spain and across northwest Africa by Saturday night.