The snowstorm “Elpis,” which brought about such a heavy snowfall that Athens was brought to a halt, was the worst such storm in the Greek capital in 14 years, according to data from the Hellenic National Meteorological Service.
Elpis caused around 20 cm (7.87 inches) of snow to fall in Athens when it hit the city on Monday. The heavy snow, which is quite uncommon for the city, coupled with low temperatures and heavy winds, caused a great many disturbances throughout Athens.
Thousands of motorists were stuck on the Attiki Odos, the major ring road of the city, for hours due to the blizzard, and many areas of the city were left without power.
Greece declared Tuesday and Wednesday as public holidays for private and public workers so that the would not have to go in to work due to the risks of traveling through the city.
The storm ranks just below one that hit the city 14 years ago in 2008, when 25 cm (9.8 inches) of snow blanketed Athens. “Medea,” the snowstorm that hit Greece in February of last year, brought about 15 cm (6 inches) of snow to Athens.
The worst snowstorm to ever impact the city occurred in February of 1911 when an astounding 150 cm (59 inches) of snow covered Athens. Yet such heavy snowfall was not as frequent in those days.
“Climate change is here,” scientist warns after heavy snow hits Greece
In the wake of the storm, a top Greek scientist warned that Greece could expect more heavy snow in the future due to climate change.
Dr. Christos Zeferos, Professor of Physics and Meteorology at the Academy of Athens, stated to television network MEGA that snowstorms such as “Elpis” will become more and more common due to the changing climate.
“There are people who say that all of this is natural. The fact that the frequency and intensity of these meteorological events are increasing is not random. It is happening within a few decades. Climate change is here, it is with us, and we need to learn how to live with it,” he stated.
Heavy snowfall, which was once quite rare in many parts of the country, hit last winter as well. Yet this most recent storm caused chaos around the country, particularly in Athens, where thousands of motorists were stranded on the city’s main ring road for hours due to snow.
Snow is common in the mountainous regions of Greece, but such heavy snowfall is rare in Athens and the Cyclades Islands, which were covered in snow for days.
The disruption the snowfall caused in the country led the government to declare Tuesday and Wednesday as national holidays, shutting down schools and shuttering private businesses and public offices in afflicted areas.
“Such snowstorms used to happen ever 40 to 50 years (in Greece), but they will occur much more frequently, and it would be good for us to begin to adjust to these new circumstances… We are at the point that whenever experts warn us that a major meteorological event will happen, we must quickly apply the appropriate measures,” Zeferos continued.
The professor then mentioned the disaster on the Attiki Odos, where drivers were stuck in their cars for hours, stating that he “doubts that the Attiki Odos has the right machines to face a phenomenon of this magnitude.”