Extreme weather conditions have forced Greek emergency services on high alert as a severe cold front sweeps through the country bringing snow and ice and making travel very dangerous. State services have been advising citizens to stay home and only travel when necessary due to the dangers posed by icy roads.
“We are on standby to deal with the bad weather and our goal is to do everything humanly possible to avoid problems,” Civil Protection General Secretary Yiannis Kapakis told Greek media.
“As long as the bad weather continues, the entire civil protection mechanism and all forces involved will remain on standby,” he added.
The Greek islands are the hardest hit from the extreme weather with a state of emergency declared on Skopelos due to heavy snowfall on the island with others expected to follow. According to reports the situation in Alonissos is even worse than on Skopelos, with 1.5-2.0 metres of snow, roads cut off, no electricity and therefore no phones or water, since the pumps were unable to function.
Problems were also reported on the island of Evia, near the Karystos and Kymi areas, where several areas are cut off and the snow reached up to 2.0 metres deep.
Snow even settled as far south as Crete, where authorities were struggling to keep roads open on Sunday.
Meanwhile the Patras-Corinth national highway was closed from Saturday afternoon until the early hours of Sunday again due to the heavy snow.
Despite improved weather and some sunshine on Sunday, temperatures remained bitterly cold and stayed below freezing throughout all areas of northern Greece, plunging as low as -19C in Florina and -16C in Nevrokopi in Drama. The bitter cold is forecast to continue in the next few days.
Authorities in other areas of Greece are struggling to keep major roadways open but snow chains are necessary in several areas and some roads have been closed due to icy conditions, especially on higher ground.
Several regions throughout the country announced that schools in their area will not open as planned on Monday due to the weather, especially in northern Greece and in higher altitudes.
Another casualty of the bad weather was the PPC’s power station in Kardia, which left the entire town of Ptolemaida without heating. The hot steam from the power plant is used to provide heating for 14,000 homes in Ptolemaida but the freezing -17C temperatures affected the functioning of two medium and high-voltage switches outside the plant, causing two of the units to fail.
Many other areas, including Thessaloniki, were left without water for a second consecutive day as water pipes froze and burst and meters seized due to the low temperatures.