MADRID (AP) — Spain was on high alert Friday as a cold snap covered much of the country with snow disrupting road, sea and air traffic, while authorities warned that worse might be in store over the weekend.
Parts of central Spain, including the capital, are expected to receive more than 24 hours of continuous snowfall as Storm Filomena moves north from the Straits of Gibraltar, the national AEMET weather agency forecast.
The heavy snowfall that in some areas started on Thursday was leading to serious disruptions by mid-Friday in some 270 roads and canceled or delayed more than 40 flights, according to Spain’s road and airport authorities.
In the southern Canarias archipelago, where rainfall and strong winds have paired with unusually rough seas with giant waves, emergency services rescued 65 people Friday from a ferry that ran aground the night before while trying to approach a dock in the Gran Canaria island.
The rescued — passengers including a baby and six crew members who had to wait for 14 hours on the vessel due to the difficulty of the operation to bring them to shore — were “exhausted but safe and healthy,” according to a tweet by the island’s government.
In Toledo, a historic city of 85,000 south of Madrid and capital of the central Castilla La Mancha region, authorities have called for help from the army to clear roads, and prohibited all circulation of vehicles without winter tires or chains.
AEMET says up to 20 centimeters (nearly 8 inches) of snow could accumulate in large parts of Spain and the build-up could reach up to 50 centimeters in mountainous areas. The storm is expected to weaken and move northeast by Sunday, the agency said.