Greece’s civil protection mechanisms remained fully mobilised on Sunday to cope with the effects of a severe cold front sweeping across Europe and into the country from the north, bringing snow, ice and very low temperatures.
State services struggled to keep major highways open and advised the public to avoid unnecessary movement due to the danger of ice on the roads.
“We are on standby to deal with the bad weather and our goal is to do everything humanly possible to avoid problems,” Civil Protection General Secretary Yiannis Kapakis told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA). “As long as the bad weather continues, the entire civil protection mechanism and all forces involved will remain on standby,” he added.
According to Kapakis, all the problems that have arisen up to this point have been dealt with and virtually the entire state mechanism and all the means at its disposal had been mobilised.
Among the areas hardest hit were the Greek islands: a state of emergency was declared on the island of Skopelos due to the heavy snow overnight, while the same is expected for nearby Alonissos. Snow even settled as far south as Crete, where authorities were struggling to keep roads open on Sunday. According to reports the situation in Alonissos is even worse than on Skopelos, with 1.5-2.0 metres of snow, roads cut off, no electricity and therefore no phones or water, since the pumps were unable to function.
Problems were also reported on the island of Evia, near the Karystos and Kymi areas, where several areas are cut off and the snow reached up to 2.0 metres deep.
Commenting on the closure of the Patras-Corinth national highway from Saturday afternoon until the early hours of Sunday, Kapakis said this was due to the heavy snow and the roadworks in those locations that led to delays.
Despite improved weather and some sunshine on Sunday, temperatures remained bitterly cold and stayed below freezing throughout all areas of northern Greece, plunging as low as -19C in Florina and -16C in Nevrokopi in Drama. The bitter cold is forecast to continue in the next few days.
In Attica, the road to the summit of Mount Parnitha was closed due to the snow, as was the Penteli peripheral road from the 414 Military Hospital to Agios Petros and Fylis Avenue from Kleiston Monastery to Dervenochoria. Authorities have also banned trucks from using the old Elefsina-Thiva road after Vilia and advised all other vehicles to use snow chains. These are also necessary in Ippokratios Politia and Agiou Merkouriou Road.
Authorities in other areas of Greece are struggling to keep major roadways open but snow chains are necessary in several areas and some roads have been closed due to icy conditions, especially on higher ground.
Several regions throughout the country announced that schools in their area will not open as planned on Monday due to the weather, especially in northern Greece and in higher altitudes.
Another casualty of the bad weather was the PPC’s power station in Kardia, which left the entire town of Ptolemaida without heating. The hot steam from the power plant is used to provide heating for 14,000 homes in Ptolemaida but the freezing -17C temperatures affected the functioning of two medium and high-voltage switches outside the plant, causing two of the units to fail.
Many other areas, including Thessaloniki, were left without water for a second consecutive day as water pipes froze and burst and meters seized due to the low temperatures.