NEWS

Come up north if you want to find out what (real) snow is like

THESSALONIKI – Local authorities in Macedonia have detected some elements of exaggeration in the official response, or the lack of it, to the cold spell and snowstorm that hit central and southern Greece. They face the consequences of a long hard winter almost every year. Kozani Mayor Paris Koukouloupoulos justifies these exaggerations, as he calls them, saying the weather was unprecedented, and points out: «Athens can’t have the organization that Moscow does.» Kozani is a town that gets a lot of snow. This winter it got more than a meter of snow, yet life didn’t come to a halt. «We are used to having lots of snow,» Koukouloupoulos told Kathimerini,» and the public and official services are prepared to deal with it by October, though we can’t say there are no problems.» As the mayor explains, there is a special list of privately owned machines that are put to work before matters get out of hand. He views the recent bout of bad weather as a useful opportunity: «It was a good lesson to see how to prevent the closure of major roads like the Egnatia Highway.» «They were all unprepared, the public and the state mechanism,» says Meletios Mavridis, mayor of Kato Nevrokopi, in Drama, in northern Greece, referring to how Attica dealt with the heavy snow. «Such problems are part of everyday life here in Nevrokopi, in the natural deep freeze of Greece,» he says. «We have learned to walk on ice, to repair damage to the water supply and sewer systems immediately, and generally to act calmly without complaining.» As Mavridis observes: «An area, a wood or a stockyard that has been cut off is news in other areas, but we take these things for granted, just as we take for granted the state mechanism’s preparation and readiness ahead of the heavy winter.» Grevena Prefect Antonis Petsas believes there has been a lot of fuss about an issue that everyone should have made a greater effort to help deal with. «It seems a bit strange to us that they drowned in a bucket of snow. Here in the city of Grevena, there was more than 1.20 meters of snow the other day and two meters outside the city. But we didn’t fall apart, though we did have some difficulties,» he told Kathimerini. «Organization is the key to managing the problem, and we plan our defense in October every year.» He cited the example of access to the hospital: «By October we have arranged for four four-wheel-drive jeeps with chains on all wheels – we’ve made them into tanks – that can get up there. We don’t wait till the last minute to act.» Long delays