ATHENS — A cold weather front has hit Greece, sending temperatures plunging from the low 20s Celsius (around 70 Fahrenheit) on Friday to well below freezing on Monday, and seeing snowfall in central Athens.
Authorities appealed to the public to restrict their movements outside to the essential only, while the main highway leading north out of the capital was shut due to snowfall.
Temperatures in part of Kozani in northern Greece fell to as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit) while gale force north winds battered Greece's islands, with gusts reaching 118 kilometers per hour (73 miles per hour).
Power cuts were reported in the Sporades islands in the Aegean. Government spokesman Christos Tarantilis said crews were working to restore electricity, after the cuts were apparently caused by trees falling onto power lines.
Heavy snowfall was predicted for central, southern and eastern Greece over the next day, including in the capital and on the southern island of Crete.
While snow is common in Greece's north and its mountains during the winter, it is infrequent on the islands and in the center of the capital.
Athens-Lamia motorway to close at 19:00 for 24 hours
The Athens-Lamia motorway, which reopened at 13:00, will shut again at 19:00 for 24 hours due to worsening weather conditions expected on Tuesday.
The decision to close the highway was taken at a meeting held on Monday at the civil defence service's headquarters, co-chaired by Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis and Deputy Civil Protection and Crisis Management Minister Nikos Hardalias.
Additionally in Attica, vehicles need snowchains to use the old Athens-Thebes national between the Vilia junction up to Vilia and from Anastaseos road in Papagou to the cemetery of Hymettus in Athens.
Traffic is also suspended on Parnitha Avenue from Ermitaz Hall to the Casino, on Fylis Avenue up to Dervenohoria and on Dionysos Avenue from the Dionysos Stadium to Anatoli Park.
Ships are not allowed to set sail from the port of Piraeus to Crete, the Dodecanese and Cyclades islands due to the gale force winds of up to 9 and 10 on the Beaufort scale. Moreover, ferries are not allowed to depart from the port of Rafina and Lavrio, while the ferry services between Aghia Marina- Nea Styra, Arkitsa-Edipsos, Kavala-Prinos, Kavala-Thassos and Alexandroupolis-Samothrace are suspended.
Traffic was also suspended on the Athens-Thessaloniki motorway from the toll post of Aghia Triada in Fthiotida up to Afidnes due to the severe weather conditions and the snowfall at 5:30 on Monday.
According to Central Greece police, traffic has been interrupted for all vehicles in both directions from the 56.728 km of Athens- Thessaloniki motorway until the 194.958 km. In the new national road Schimatari-Chalkida and in Thebes- Chalkida motorway from the junction of Drossia to the junction of Schimatari.
Snowchains are mandatory along the open sections of Athens-Thessaloniki motorway, in the Domokos area and for the road linking Lamia with Karpenissi.
Finally, it is noted that schools will not open on Monday in all five municipalities of Central Greece due to the extreme weather conditions and all lessons will be conducted online.
Extremely low temperatures recorded in northern Greece
As the cold front Medea sweeping over Greece was in full progress and heading south on Monday, very low temperatures were recorded in the northern parts of the country on Monday morning.
According to Athens National Observatory's weather service meteo.gr, the lowest temperatures recorded were -19.9 C at Mesovouno in Kozani, -17.1 C in Neos Kafkasos at Florina, -15.9 C in Kilada in the region of Kozani, -14.4 C at Vounassa, Grevena, -14.2 C in Terpyllos of Kilkis and -13.7 C in the city of Florina.
Gale force winds are blowing at sea, with the strongest wind gust of 118km/h recorded in Paximada Karystou, Evia.