Snow wreaks havoc on Athens roads, leaves dozens trapped overnight on highway – Seven regions shut down in wake of snowstorm

Some 5,000 motorists spent hours trapped in their cars in freezing temperatures on the Greek capital’s Attiki Odos highway on Monday and dozens were still trapped through Tuesday morning, with the army, fire and ambulance services and the police delivering water, blankets, snacks and other relief, and speeding up efforts to help them get home safely.

Some motorists reported being trapped in their cars for more than 20 hours, while other outraged social media posts showed dozens of people trudging through heavy snow, including parents carrying young children, as they abandoned their cars and trucks on the side of the road and took to walking in search of help and shelter.

Another post showed a few dozen snowbound motorists sleeping on the floor of the lobby of a nearby hotel.

Attiki Odos SA, the company responsible for the privately managed highway, issued an apology on Monday, saying that it will be conducting a thorough investigation into why its emergency response systems broke down despite repeated warnings of adverse conditions in the week leading up to Monday’s snowstorm.

As efforts continued on Tuesday morning to clear the highway of snow and ice, as well as of abandoned vehicles and jack-knifed trucks, the police said that motorists should not venture into the streets of Athens without snow chains, as conditions remain hazardous.

Seven regions shut down in wake of snowstorm

Authorities have warned the public to limit their movements on Tuesday to essential reasons only, as a holiday has been declared in seven regions in the wake of heavy snowfall that began on Monday and threw the Greek capital and other parts of the country into chaos.

According to the emergency measures announced on Monday night by Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides, public services have been suspended, with the exception of municipal and regional government, armed forces and security forces, public health and other services whose operation is necessary for the management of the weather emergency.

Nurseries, kindergartens and schools are also closed, without the option of online classes because the administrative staff necessary to run them is absent.

Private businesses have also been ordered to shut down, except for supermarkets and food stores (which will operate from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), gas stations, pharmacies and other health-related businesses, as well as businesses whose operation helps address the effects of bad weather.

The regions affected are Attica, Evia, Viotia, Crete and the islands of the Cyclades, Dodecanese and Sporades.

The snowfall in Attica started on Monday morning and is expected to continue in many parts of the capital and its environs for part of Tuesday, according to the National Meteorological Service.

“Clouds formed at a great altitude and consequently a lot of snow fell in a short period of time. At the same time, the fact that that had been preceded by very low temperatures meant the snow did not melt when it fell to the ground, so that very rapid snow cover accumulated,” said Kostas Lagouvardos, research director of the National Observatory and scientific director of meteo.gr.

Heavy snowfall is also expected to continue in the islands of the Sporades, Evia, the eastern parts of Thessaly (mainly Magnesia), central Greece and the Peloponnese, the Cyclades, Crete and the islands of the eastern Aegean. Its intensity will weaken after noon on Tuesday.

Meteorologists expect the weather to start easing from noon on Tuesaday in most parts, but not on the islands and Crete, where snow and heavy rain will continue.

However, the temperatures are forecast to remain low on Tuesday and Wednesday, with frost developing as the snow begins to melt.

In Attica, the National Meteorological Service (EMY) forecast temperatures on Tuesday from 0-3 Celsius.