Greek civil protection services are on high alert as the country is in threat of a cyclone, this comes as forest fires hit Kefalonia and an earthquake rattled the Peloponnese overnight.
Gale-force winds of up to 100 kilometers per hour hit into Greece from the west, and meteorologists warned about the possibility of a cyclone in the Ionian Sea.
Meteorologists warned of the high probability that a Mediterranean cyclone known as a medicane — which combines the words Mediterranean and hurricane — could form Friday in the Ionian Sea southwest of the Greek mainland.
The high winds forced ferries to remain in ports on Thursday and ferries are currently banned sailing from the Greek islands’ to the mainland.
The National Observatory of Athens’ Meteo service warned of the possibility of a tropical-like cyclone (Medicane) forming late on Thursday in the Ionian Sea, based on current data.
According to Meteo, it is expected to move eastwards, bringing heavy rains and high winds to a large section of the Peloponnese and Crete early on Saturday, before moving on to Attica, Evia, and the Cycladic Islands, reaching the East Aegean Islands, possibly even the Dodecanese Islands, by early Sunday.
Due to the unpredictability of Medicanes, especially in regards to the paths they take, Meteo said it will be issuing updated information continuously.
On the island Kefalonia, several villages were evacuated as wildfire was being fanned by the strong winds. The island’s emergency services were on alert as weather conditions were expected to worsen.
The Institute of Geodynamics, meanwhile, said an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.0 struck off the western coast of southern Greece.
No damage or injuries were immediately reported.
Xenophon, which forced boats to remain docked the last three days, continues to lash the Aegean Sea with gale-force winds and low seasonal temperatures. By Thursday night and Friday morning, the eastern part of mainland Greece (Attica), the Peloponnese, the Cycladic Islands, and Crete should expect rain and storms, the weather service added.
Power cuts were reported in the northern suburbs of Athens on Thursday, caused mainly by trees and branches falling on power lines due to the strong winds, with emergency services receiving over 500 calls.
Problems reported in Pallini have now been repaired, while power cuts have also been reported in Agios Stefanos, Kifissia and Halandri.
All schools in Attica will stay shut on Friday under the orders of the region’s governor Rena Dourou. The decision was taken as a precaution and to limit the movement of school children outdoors to a minimum, due to the extreme and dangerous weather conditions expected to prevail.
Orders for all schools to stay shut have also been issued by the Peloponnese regional authority for Corinth, Argolis, Arcadia, Messinia and Lakonia and by the Western Greece Region for Achaia, Ilia, and Aitoloakarnania.
In a press conference on Thursday night, along with the director of Greece’s National Meteorological Service Thodoris Kolydas, General Secretary for Civil Protection Yiannis Tafyllis said that state mechanisms were on full alert ahead of the arrival of the cyclone expected.
Kolydas said that reasonably accurate predictions could only be made for the next 48 hours and warned that the public should expect winds of 9-10 Beaufort and strong rain and storms, especially in the southern Peloponnese, Crete and western Cyclades islands. The phenomena will also affect south and eastern Attica on Saturday, he said.
The press conference was given after a meeting of all agencies involved in civil protection to discuss the details of the plan for dealing with the severe weather front, such as the police, fire brigade, emergency services, defense ministry, and local authorities, among others.
Kolydas noted that it was hard to predict the precise course, movement and intensity of such phenomena but expected the storm to hit in two phases, with strong rains on southern parts and then move on to Attica on Saturday.
“I would not say that the rainfall will have especially great intensity and, at the same time, during the night there will be a small and brief break in the weather,” he noted but this could pick up again later and move eastward on Saturday evening to night. It would continue from Saturday to Sunday but gradually start to lessen in intensity, he added.
The meteorological service was monitoring the phenomena and will give regular updates, he said.
Tafyllis advised the public to show extra caution, secure any objects that might be blown away and cause damage or injuries, avoid crossing water courses during heavy rain, avoid passing under big trees, signposts and places where light objects might be blown free.
Severe weather warnings have been issued through to Sunday, with the storm expected to gradually move eastwards.