Parts of Greece hit by sudden snow

Wednesday 09th Mar 2011 by theWeather Club

Several parts of Greece have been thrown into transport chaos after being hit by a sudden snowstorm. Transport networks have been hard hit with one overnight traffic jam stretching for up to 15km. Ferry services were also disrupted and there were power cuts in some parts of the capital Athens and on the islands, prompting some schools to close. The sudden wintry weather struck late on Monday as many people were returning from a long weekend. Ash Monday - the day Greek Orthodox Christians begin the religious season of Lent - is a public holiday so a great many people were on the move.

An area of low pressure situated across eastern parts of the Mediterranean also brought in gale force winds with sustained speeds of 64km/h (40mph) and gusts of up to 128km/h (80mph), causing hazardous travel conditions and the newly fallen snow to drift. One national highway in Athens and roads in the city's northern suburbs were closed overnight, Reuters news agency reports. Conditions have forced the authorities to ask people only to make absolutely necessary journeys. Some roads in the Peloponnese, central Greece and the north of the country were also shut.

But it has not all been blizzard conditions, the snow that closed down the road into Malakasa - a small town to the north of Athens - was comparatively light and Transport Minister Dimitris Reppas accused the private consortium managing it of failing to do its job properly. Fotini Lambrou a spokesperson for the company Nea Odos disagreed, saying that 50 gritting machines had spread some 50 tonnes of salt on the road. She went on to say that tailbacks had been caused by drivers reducing their speed or stopping to fit snow chains. As the spat carries on, the cold weather is expected to continue. It is forecast to last into Wednesday, with night-time temperatures in Athens dipping just below zero.