Icy streets and packed metros. Madrid digs out from its historic snowstorm in the middle of a pandemic

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Icy streets and packed metros. Madrid digs out from its historic snowstorm in the middle of a pandemic


MADRID — So the COVID-19 pandemic is making your life complicated? Hold my frosty cerveza, was the message Storm Filomena delivered to Spain over the weekend.

Filomena dumped around 20 inches of snow on the capital Madrid between Friday evening and Saturday, and plenty elsewhere. As of Monday, the region faces several days of an temperature plunge, with many streets still covered in an inch or more of ice and slush and hardened mounds of snow, while Filomena moved on to other parts of the country, with several dead.

Snow from Storm Filomena begins to fall on Madrid’s Calle Mayor on Jan. 8, 2021.


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The threat of a blizzard in such a sun-filled country initially seemed rather far-fetched to this reporter. But by Sunday, the apartment had filled up with reminders of snowy Kansas winters — that is, a lot of wet clothes — as my jubilant kids dashed in and out of our apartment to the white wonderland literally on our doorstep.

Snow falling near the royal palace in Madrid on Jan. 9, 2021.


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On the street where this reporter lives in Madrid on Jan. 9, 2021.


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Madrid had only just ended its Christmas holidays and turned off the lights to refocus on the gloom of the COVID-19 pandemic, with its curfews and limits on gatherings — so a snowstorm was a distraction for sure.

And it may have even helped out with the pandemic by keeping some people at home, as officials pleaded for residents to not venture out, with trees branches cracking and falling under the weight of snow that also tumbled periodically from building ledges. Downed and destroyed trees were a testament to the ferocity of the storm.

Two massive pine trees on the ground in front of the Church of Santiago and San Juan Bautista in Madrid on Jan. 10, 2021.


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No doubt, this summer, we will remember Filomena’s wrath when walking the capital city’s hot, shadeless streets.

Destroyed trees in Plaza del Conde de Barajas in Madrid on Jan. 9, 2021.


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The below tweet shows the storm’s aftermath on a tree-lined street, Calle Fuencarral, off Gran Via.

Among the other miseries, people were trapped in their cars on snow-clogged roads for hours, with others stuck in funeral homes and shopping malls. And businesses already hard hit by the pandemic were forced to shut early on Friday and close all of Saturday and Sunday, with some only reopening on Monday, using whatever they could to de-ice the sidewalks in front of them.

Snow-covered tables in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor on Jan. 9, 2021.


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Taberna Antonio Sánchez, the oldest known tavern in Madrid, open for business on Jan. 10, 2021, and advertising hot soup.


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Granted, Spain’s army, firefighters and forestry workers were on the case on Monday, with some of the biggest streets cleared, but just below my house, the icy-cobbled streets menaced at anyone daring to stray off a small path cleared by neighbors, which was sure to freeze over by Monday night.

Much like in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, grocery stores, with their suppliers locked out of many streets, are running low on food, with empty shelves, including that pandemic throwback — toilet paper.

Empty meat shelves at a local DIA store in the La Latina district of Madrid on Jan. 9, 2021.


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And those trying to avoid freezing temperatures, unable to travel by bus or car due to icy streets on Monday, were forced onto crowded metros and toward the potential threat of COVID-19 .

As for the joys this snowstorm brought, few will forget the epic snowball fight on Madrid’s Gran Vía that went on for hours on Saturday, until the police reportedly broke it up — things had gotten that fierce. And the makeshift sledding down snowy streets, with the skiers and snowboarders.

Pedestrians traverse slippery roads and cross-country ski down Madrid’s Calle Mayor on Jan. 10, 2021.


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Madrid’s Gran Vía was largely cleared of snow by Sunday, Jan. 10, but devoid of traffic.


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Nor will they forget this dinosaur stomping around in snow not seen in the city since the early 1970s.



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