WEATHER

Heavy snow blankets the Greek capital

heavy-snow-blankets-the-greek-capital

The Medea cold front hit southern Greece the hardest on Tuesday, dumping great amounts of snow and causing power cuts and heavy traffic disruption, as well as three deaths.

The situation, especially the danger of extensive power cuts, prompted a meeting of top officials to discuss ways to respond to the unusual weather phenomenon.

“This was very strong snowfall for Attica, such as we have not seen in many years,” Kostas Lagouvardos, research director at the National Observatory of Athens and manager of the website meteo.gr, told Kathimerini.

Lagouvardos warned that, although weather conditions will improve, the icy conditions will persist through Thursday.

While Athens recorded a minimum temperature of -5 Celsius, it was much colder in northern Greece. The city of Florina, in the northwest, recorded -22 Celsius early ον Τuesday.

In the Athens area, the heavy snowfall disrupted transport and commuters. While most main avenues had been cleared of snow, this was not the case in the smaller side streets, many of which were impassable. An Athens deputy mayor said special small vehicles, some on loan from other cities, such as Lamia, would start cleaning up the streets on Wednesday.

The transport disruption was most evident on Line 1 of the metro, from the port of Piraeus to the northern suburb of Kifissia, which runs almost exclusively above the ground. Operations ceased early Tuesday morning and, by late afternoon, the tracks beyond Attiki station and to the north were still closed. Also, Metro Line 3 was not running on its above-ground section, which serves four stations, including Athens International Airport. But the suburban railway operated as usual along the same section.

A large tree fell on a suburban railway train traveling from Athens to Halkida, north of the capital, smashing a window and sending glass flying inside the cabin. There were no injuries reported, either on that train or another on the same line that derailed. But the derailment temporarily disrupted the Athens-Thessaloniki route. The suburban railway line to Halkida and Kiato was also disrupted by power cuts.

The tram stopped operating across most of the network on Tuesday morning because trees and branches had fallen onto the tracks. But the seafront section from Neo Faliro to Voula was operating as usual.

Most bus and trolley routes were not operating on Tuesday morning and at least through late afternoon, when Kathimerini went to press.

The meeting held by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the General Secretariat for Civil Protection and attended by several ministers focused on keeping power cuts to a minimum and addressing the issue of road closures.

“Our great worry is power supply. We know there are problems in Attica. The (distribution network operator) is doing its best,” Mitsotakis said, adding that bad weather would persist in the capital area until this morning and then would hit Crete.

The officials agreed that the decision taken on Tuesday to close the main north-south national highway to traffic was correct, because it prevented drivers from being trapped along the way.