“A historic snowfall is expected in Madrid. More than 15 inches of snow will fall all over the city. Be prepared!”, and no one –not even the government– prepared.
Those were some of the warnings one could hear in the news a week before the disaster in the capital of Spain, a country that despite having snowstorms in the north region every year, it didn´t prepare Madrid for what was considered the greatest snowfall in decades. This affected thousands of families, travelers, and businesses. A great way to start 2021.
And then, the magic. Seeing a snowfall in Madrid was truly beautiful, at the beginning.
It was a chilly Friday afternoon on the 8th of January when my husband and I ate with his family at this gorgeous Gallego restaurant. By then, it had been several hours since the snowstorm had started.
Afterward, we went to La Gran Via to some last-minute shopping before flying back to New York, and I noticed how people were enchanted looking at those fluffy celestial particles falling from the sky.
The snow went on and on. Around 6:00 p.m., El Retiro park closed its doors for people´s safety. By midnight, drivers gave up on pushing their cars uphill through unsalted streets and highways. Many cars –including some police vehicles– inevitably slid downhill all the way to the end of the roads.
What caught my attention was that I never saw road crews or plows preparing the streets, like it’s normally done in New York or any other country where it snows regularly. So, what started as magical white particles at some point became ice and that caused numerous hospitalizations. As if a pandemic wasn´t enough to deal with.
Moreover, Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport –one of the most important airports in Spain– didn’t receive the required support to continue functioning either. It remained completely closed for almost four days.
Many travelers got stuck at the airport with uncertainty and nowhere to sleep. My husband and I got our flight delayed 11 days…that’s right, ELEVEN! Oh, and zero compensation for it.
Although it truly was chaos for many people, a lot of others enjoyed the snow and they quickly packed the streets of Madrid on their skis, snowboards, and sleds. And since not a lot of madrileños had seen a snowstorm like this before, I actually feel –kind of– lucky to had seen this side of Madrid with my own eyes. So, if you ever get caught in a snowstorm in Spain, just find a warm place to stay and make sure to stock up on wine and jamón. ¡Olé!