Following a short break of relatively high temperatures and sunshine over the past few days, the weather is forecast to deteriorate considerably today, posing severe problems to thousands of holidaymakers. According to a National Meteorological Service (EMY) bulletin yesterday, heavy rains and storms were expected to have hit most of the Aegean islands by this morning, while the bad weather will also spread to the Ionian islands, the northern Aegean and most of mainland Greece. Snow is expected to fall in much of northern Greece. Conditions are forecast to start improving from tomorrow afternoon. Severe storms last week caused chaos throughout the country, severing road and rail links between northern and southern Greece on Friday. At the same time, fog forced Thessaloniki civil aviation authorities to keep the local airport closed for hours, as the only runway that was equipped with electronic equipment to guide pilots in through minimal visibility had been left covered in snow and ice. Fearing a repeat of last week’s public transport breakdown in Thessaloniki – which was due to a combination of snow, icy roads and the fact the local bus company (OASTH) possesses very few snow chains – Deputy Transport Minister Spyros Vougias has written to the OASTH management calling for the creation of a contingency plan to ensure that an acceptable level of service is maintained. On Christmas Day, the single railway link between northern and southern Greece was once again severed when the Spercheios River in Central Greece – fed by melting snow from the local highlands – rose in spate, bursting its banks. Trains were not allowed to cross the river, and passengers were ferried by bus to the next railway station. Also on Christmas Day, several areas of Athens and Thessaloniki, as well as other parts of Greece, suffered temporary electricity blackouts in the evening as the result of a fire at the Aghios Dimitrios power center near Kozani in Western Macedonia. A statement yesterday by the Public Power Company (PPC) said the accident, which had been caused by an exploding transformer, would not continue to affect the nationwide grid as the Aghios Dimitrios unit only provides 300 of the 10,000 megawatts produced in mainland Greece. The unemployment rate in Greece dropped to 10.9 percent in the first quarter of 2001, down from 12.1 percent in the same period in 2000, the National Statistics Service said on Monday. According to final figures, joblessness among men was at 7.2 percent and 16.3 percent among women, it said. The southern Aegean had the highest rate (16.2 percent) while Crete had the lowest (6.5 percent).