The long sandy stripe of the Costa Blanca, also known as the White Coast, is one of Europe’s most heavily visited areas – a very popular tourist destination.
But a big freeze in Spain last week left over 1,300 cars trapped through the entire night on Highway A-7, Alicante-Valencia, in heavy snowstorms. At least 3,000 trapped drivers were stranded on roads due to the heavy snow and were forced to spend the night in minus 6-7 ° Celsius degree weather in their cars.
I had booked a flight to Alicante and hired a car to go to Javea, expecting warm and sunny days. But when leaving the Airport Alicante, the reality was quite different.
Driving turned out as a kind of mission impossible, as sudden thunderstorms began producing dramatic hailstorms that covered the entire highway with a thick carpet of ice within seconds. This was followed by heavy snowfall on the highway between Alicante and Valencia A-7 and the closing of over 100 roads in the region famous for its huge orange farmlands, and long sunny beaches with huge communities of British, German, Dutch, etc., and pensioners, living along the coastline for several decades.
This is where snow has been unseen at the Costa Blanca (White Coast) for nearly 100 years!
Driving conditions on snow and ice in a sunny region where normally the temperature in January is around 17 Celsius was a nightmare. The rental car was without winter tires, because they are never needed here, although they are mandatory in Switzerland, Germany, etc., during the winter months. So, driving in the rental car felt more like survival training on Spanish roads.
Last Wednesday and Thursday, snow fell even on the beaches, and the Costa Blanca truly lived up to its White Coast name. Yes, snow falling at sea level! In Torrevieja, just east of Murcia, snow had not been seen since December 2, 1926. Before that, the last time the city saw snow was on January 2, 1914, a Spanish newspaper reported.
The deep freeze brought chaos on the roads for 3 days and left schools closed for days in Denia, Gata, Javea, El Verger, Orba, etc. Above Valencia, some villages near Castellon had one meter of snow, and inhabitants did not have to go far to get their skis on.
The AVE train service to Alicante was disrupted, while bus services to Denia only resumed on Saturday. Many restaurants and shops were closed for 3 to 4 days, and electricity shorts made life difficult and left many houses without heating.
The big freeze was also a disaster for Spanish vegetables and salad crops, which are exported to the United Kingdom, Germany, and other EU nations at this time of the year. The Murcia region in southeast Spain is one of Europe’s biggest vegetable-growing areas, producing lettuces, peppers, tomatoes, and cabbage, and the snow has caused the prices to skyrocket in supermarkets this week.
Many farms were already hit by floods in December, and this latest temperature drop down to minus 6-7 Celsius, has left this year’s orange harvest completely destroyed. When talking to one of the owners of largest oranges farms, it was learned there will be hardly any redemption. It is far too costly to have all the oranges picked up from the ground than thrown away, I was told.
“I have never seen anything like this in my life,” said Cuca Alvear, who has owned a boutique in Javea for more than 34 years.
Over the weekend, torrential rainfalls turned roads on the coast into rivers, and it was hard to keep cars on the road with winds as high as 110-130 kilometers per hour.
The locals were in total shock, having never seen anything like this before. Ask them and they will tell you they are sure it is due to climate change, “something Mr. Trump does not believe in,” one person said.
The Island of Mallorca suffered through an entire week of flooding, which left the sunny island with severe electricity cuts, destroyed roads, and left some beaches like Cala Rajada without sand. The severe weather has caused landslides in the inner Island areas and has left farmers to deal with crops in ruins.
This all happened during the period of FITUR, Spain’s most important and biggest Tourism Fair in Madrid which has seen more than 245,000 visitors – an increase of 6% compared to last year. The event ended on Sunday.
Sunshine is slowly coming back, but it will be very hard to bring back all the destroyed farmland to prosper in the coming season.
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