Snow in Sevilla

Hello, it's Monday and for many people it's the first real work day of the year. Yes, I know, there were some 'dias laborables' last week, but it's hard to get back into things properly when Reyes chops your week in half. So this is our first full week, and it's tough after all the fun of Christmas, New Year and Reyes. So back to the grindstone, with a month of largely cold, wet weather to look forward to. It's woolly hat, scarf, gloves – at least, first thing in the morning - hot soup, hot chocolate, hot fire weather. One of the better aspects of winter is when the countryside takes on that fairytale air – a dusting of icing sugar on the trees and roofs. Yes, I'm talking about snow. Yesterday the white stuff dominated TV and online news, as well as social networking sites. I have never heard so many people debating the difference between snow and sleet. Why? Because it is alleged to have snowed in Sevilla yesterday (Sunday 10 January). And why is that so important? Because the last time it snowed here was over half a century ago - on 2 February 1954 - so if it did, it's a really big deal locally (the newspapers called it ''historic'', which I would call your typical Andalucian exagguration). Noone will argue that it snowed in the province of Seville yesterday, as well as in all of Andalucia's other seven provinces, while the cities of Jaen, Granada and Cordoba also experienced a white covering. In Sevilla province, the Sierra Norte gets snow most years – so it's not unknown for roads to be closed, or even some towns even cut off, and the same is true for other mountainous areas of the region such as the Sierra Nevada, and the Sierras de Huelva and Ronda. But the big argument was whether the official account was correct – did it actually snow in Seville city itself? It was METAR, the airport weather report service, which confirmed that it snowed in Seville city yesterday. But many people disputed this, arguing that it was sleet (defined as a mixture of snow and rain), not snow, that fell. The online discussions veered towards mostly sleet, with possibly a few flakes of snow thrown in momentarily, though some denied this vigorously. I've never seen people get so heated, if you'll excuse the pun, about meteorological terminology. In the towns of the Aljarafe, the high area to the east of the city where I live, there's no doubt that it snowed – I know, because I saw it myself. Citizen journalism, whether you like it or not, provides us with instant photographic evidence on occasions such as these, and it was wonderful to see all those familiar local places popping up on news websites with their magical white dusting. Reassuringly, Spanish trains couldn't cope with the freezing temperatures, although they weren't as pathetic as the Eurostar with its pre-Christmas all-night breakdowns. In various parts of Andalucia, trains and tracks froze – over 600 passengers had to be evacuated from four trains. And even today, with the thermometer creeping back up again, the AVE is still suffering delays – and the passengers can't even use their no-more-than-20-minutes-late-or-your-money-back guarantee while the speed of the trains is limited to 160km/h. For those of us still experiencing below-zero temperatures, as well as those lucky enough to get a bit of sun today (like me), just think on this: some parts of Europe will be experiencing Siberian temperatures of -45 in the next few days. Not so bad after all, is it?
Blog published on 11 January 2010