WHEN THE PHILOMENAL WHITEOUT DOVETAILS INTO THE OLD NORMAL

NewssliderSpain

Not one to pass up a fortuitous holiday after the unforgivably lackluster
Christmas season, the Spaniards geared up for frolic in the snow.
But  when the pristine snow iced over, they’re back to the
old normal  of the unrelenting COVID-19 and the
elusive vaccines — the  much-touted light at
the end of the tunnel — that another
Filomena could well snuff out.

by Rose Maramba

It’s just a white memory now. But while the heavens were sending torrential snow down on Spain, the reality of it was–  well, quite real, it simply took fatigued minds off other matters. Like the looming third wave of the pandemic with its mutating virus.

It lasted just six days, from the 6th to the 11th of January, the borrasca Filomena (Philomena storm). But it was enough to make things other than the snow fade into near irrelevance.

AEMET’s red alert for Madrid is no empty warning. (Photo: Plaza Romana in Usera, Madrid)

Filomena entered the Spanish peninsula through the backdoor. By way of the Canary Islands. Not that it did so in quite a stealthy manner. It couldn’t have got away with it even if it was of the mind. Before it could make its presence felt, the weather bureau, AEMET, had been issuing dire warnings:  heavy rainfall and strong winds offshore and the southern coastal areas; red alert for central Spain, particularly Madrid, Guadalajara, Toledo, Cuenca, Albacete, Teruel, and Zaragoza. Also inland Valencia and Catalonia.

Unaccustomed to such a weather, the Spaniards didn’t quite know what to make of all those warnings, whether to get excited about the prospect of a full-bodied snowstorm and prepare to enjoy. Or hunker down, make suitable provisions so as not to freeze.

An unusually beautiful sight – pristine snow blanketing  landscapes

AEMET didn’t over-warn. As predicted, Filomena turned out to be the worst snowstorm in the country since 1971. By Friday central Spain was being treated to an unusually beautiful sight – pristine snow blanketing every landscape, from urban to countryside, in plains and mountains.

By Saturday most activities had been paralyzed. Shops closed down, what was the use? And it was the Sales season too! Post-Holiday classes at all levels were suspended. Public transports, including boats and planes, were grounded, though not the Metro.

Skis, sleds, snowmen in town centers. (Photo: Town of Aranjuez, Madrid Region)

Now what?

Not one to pass up a fortuitous holiday after the unforgivably lackluster Christmas season, the Spaniards geared up for frolic in the snow. Skis and sleds didn’t just sprout at skiing resorts but also on just about any sloping trails; they were everywhere downtown. So were igloos, snowmen. . .

Children playing like children

It was great to see children playing like children. And the not-so-young having just as much fun.

Oh, those exciting white days! Everybody knew the weather hadn’t obsolesced trouble. Not by a long shot. Frontline workers doing double shifts to stand in for their colleagues stranded in the snow. Drivers stuck on freezing highways. The sick unable to get to hospitals. Roofs caving in under the weight of meter-high snow. . .  But when needed, people helped people. So on with the good times.

Then the weekend came and Filomena blew itself off out of Spain, leaving behind dirty snow that was fast icing over, promising broken limbs. Buses plied their routes in increasing number and frequency.  Supermarkets had run out of fresh supplies but shoppers were assured that the central markets would open immediately to stock empty shelves.

It’s not unusual for Teruel to post -17C

Filomena, once a formidable storm, exited a much-diminished atmospheric disturbance. Unfortunately, its exit dovetailed with severe temperatures. Just this Thursday, 14 January, Teruel thermometers registered -17C. And it’s become not quite extraordinary for Madrid to register -6C or even -9C.

COVID-19 VACCINE: the much-touted light at the end of the tunnel that another Filomena could well snuff out. (Photo: First COVID-19 vaccination in Asturias)

It’s easing up, though; one week after Filomena bowed out, life is settling down to normal.

What’s “normal”? It’s what the whiteout let us forget briefly: the third wave of COVID-19 that is worse than the second. The elusive vaccines — the much-touted light at the end of the tunnel — that another Filomena could well snuff out if only because they’re awfully scarce. The busted hospitality industry. . .

———

Images
>Featured image courtesy Fe Panlaqui
>Plaza Romana/Kike Suota, CC BY-SA4.0
>Snow-blanketed landscape/Emergency 112 of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, Twitter@112cMadrid, Fair use
>Aranjuez/Rodelar, CC BY-SA4.0
>Children at play courtesy Fe  Panlaqui
>Teruel/B25es via, CC BY-SA4.0
>COVID-19 vaccine/Administracion del Principado de Asturias, CC BY-SA4.0