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Winter storm blankets Greece with snow

(ATHENS NEWS AGENCY)  Heavy snowfall blanketed much of Greece on Sunday, as meteorologists’ predictions, days earlier, of a severe winter storm passing through the east Mediterranean proved extremely accurate.  The primary goal for state services over the weekend was to keep the main north-south road axis in the country, the Athens-Thessaloniki highway, opened, even if meant only for four-wheel drive vehicles or vehicles fitted with snow chains.

    In the greater Athens area, the mountains surrounding the capital were completely cut off due to the snow, which piled up even in the city’s centre up to 20 cm. Snowfall was continued unabated in Athens throughout the afternoon, although most forms of mass transit were unaffected, sans bus routes to northern Athens. Additionally, the Athens metro was due to remain open all night on Sunday through Monday morning.

    Conversely, the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport of Athens was closed at 5 p.m. on Sunday until further notice due to low visibility in the area, east of Athens proper.

    Schools in the greater Athens-Piraeus area were ordered closed for Monday, while most sports events scheduled for Sunday, including a handful of Super League football matches, were cancelled.

    As opposed to central and southern Greece, sunshine and low temperatures greeted residents in Thessaloniki and central Macedonia.

    Conditions on provincial roadways, especially in mountainous regions, were reported as perilous, with authorities warning the public to stay off the roads if possible.

    The forecast for Monday called for clear weather in much of northern Greece with subsiding snowfall elsewhere, also clearing by evening. A frost warning for much of the country was also forecast, however.

        Caption Up: Ice sickles hang from a tree next to Lake Pamvotida in the northwest city of Ioannina on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2008, where a low of -10C was recorded in the morning. ANA-MPA / PARASKEVI PAPPA

A man walks in a park covered with snow in the township of Malakasa, just north of Athens, on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2008. Heavy snow fell throughout Greece over the weekend, cutting the access to numerous areas and causing problems on national highways, while temperatures reached -15C in northern Greece. ANA-MPA/Alexandros Beltes.