Student experiences with Filomena in Madrid


Last week, Spain experienced its worst snowstorm in over 50 years. Over 20 inches of snow fell between the 8th of January to the 12th, causing major damage to the city and inconvenience to its residents. 

Madrid rarely ever experiences snowfall. Even in the case that it does snow, it is never even close to 20 inches. So, many of the city’s transportation networks were heavily impacted. Buses stopped running because the snow could not be properly cleared from the roads. The national rail service had to cancel its routes into Madrid. And, the airport had to cancel flights to defrost the runways.

As a result of the ice and the heavy snowfall, many IE students returning to Madrid were left stranded.

Anna Hattig, a fourth-year LLBBIR student, had her flight from Frankfurt initially delayed overnight. However, her flight was canceled the next morning and the airline offered to place her on the next available flight to Madrid. The current COVID restrictions in place dictate that one must have a negative COVID test not older than 72 hours before entering Spain. Anna’s COVID test “expired” that same day. Therefore, because all flights to Madrid were canceled, she would not be able to enter Madrid when the next flight became available due to her COVID test window closing. 

Instead, Anna was able to get a flight to Barcelona, a Spanish city which was not affected by the snow. Nevertheless, once Anna had landed in Barcelona, her travel problems were not over. The snow was still present in Madrid, and there was a fear of the snow melting and becoming ice. So, transport by air was still unavailable. In addition, all tickets to Madrid by train were also sold out immediately following the reopening of the railway system on the 11th. Anna finally reached Madrid on the 12th of January, after travelling from Hamburg on the 9th.

Other students already residing in Madrid highlighted the lack of food in the supermarkets. This was a result of cargo trucks and planes not being able to enter the city over the weekend, coupled with the rise in COVID cases. Student Lucia Cavero, a final year BIR student, was stuck at her friend’s house in Periferia. The extreme cold caused the plumbing in her building to freeze so there was no running water. And, since the roads were closed, they had to walk to the supermarket. The nearest one was five kilometers away.

Many other students who were in Madrid or who live in Madrid permanently also reported having similar situations to Lucia. Maria Sanchez, also a final year BIR student, stated that even though she didn’t have to walk five kilometers to the nearest supermarket, Filomena left her unable to enter the centre of Madrid.

Filomena brought chaos to Madrid. It impacted the transportation infrastructure and highlighted the failure of the Spanish government to be prepared for this type of climate situation, which had been predicted. However, the snow also brought lots of joy to the city. Many cited the infamous snowball fight in Gran Via and the iconic photos of people skiing along La Castellana.


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