The U.S. has its Bomb Cyclone, but Europe is also feeling the chill. Many Spaniards left it late to go home after celebrating the Epiphany holiday over the weekend and became trapped in their cars overnight on Saturday by heavy snowfall. 250 soldiers from the Spanish Army were deployed Sunday to rescue hundreds of motorists, including families, who had been forced to spend the night in their vehicles in freezing conditions.

Trying to go home from the holidays

Saturday saw the end of the festive season in Spain as people celebrated Epiphany, or the Day of the Three Kings.

The holiday tends to be more popular than Christmas Day in Spain and families had been traveling to visit relatives and friends for the event. However many left it late to return home and got caught in the unusually snowy conditions.

The heavy snowfall on Saturday led to several roads being blocked and hundreds of vehicles being stuck on the AP6 highway between Segovia and Madrid. As reported by The Local, around 250 soldiers, along with firefighters, attempted to clear the road with snowplows, while handing out hot drinks, energy foods and blankets to the stranded motorists. The army posted on Twitter to say they were clearing the road kilometer by kilometer to get people to safety as soon as possible.

Travelers complain about being stranded overnight

Many of the travelers headed to social media to complain about their plight, saying they had been stuck on the highway since Saturday night.

The Local quotes Sara Ramos as telling Spanish television that she had her husband were trapped by the snowy conditions on Sunday, along with their two children, aged six and two years. They had reportedly had no food since lunchtime Saturday. Ramos said they were beginning to worry, as some cars had already run out of gas, necessary to keep the heating going in the vehicles.

Reportedly on Sunday there were still around 1,000 vehicles stuck on the highway and the road safety authorities had recommended drivers keep their engines running for warmth. Meanwhile, severe weather alerts are still being issued by the weather office for areas all over Spain due to risks from heavy rain, snow, and strong winds.

Southern Spain hit by icy weather

As reported by Euro Weekly News, even the south of Spain – which normally experiences reasonably mild weather – has been badly affected by freak weather, with a number of roads in the Malaga province closed by heavy snowfall. Teams are out with snow plows to clear the roads, but more than 30 calls for help had been received by the emergency services from people stuck in the snowy conditions.

Many roads were then closed to allow snow plows to work unimpeded. Ironically even the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park, named for the snow that falls there during the winter months, has also been closed due to the heavy snowfall.

Meanwhile, on the Costa del Sol, where residents are normally only likely to see snow on distant mountain tops, several beaches have been affected by light snow and hail. Many shared images and videos of the previously unheard of event.