At 2:29 p.m., an intermittent alarm shook all of Madrid. Interrupted meals, naps or sleep programs television y radio, causing scenes of confusion. Thousands of beeps sounded at the same time at the Prado Museum, amplified by the echo of the building. The noise disconcerted a group of Koreans who were contemplating Las Meninas, the hostesses who looked at each other strangely, and the security guards, who made a move to start the evacuation, believing that it was the museum’s alert.
The surprise lasted a few brief moments until they realized that the beeping was coming from their own cell phones. The Community of Madrid had sent a massive telephone alert, the first time it has used this system, to warn of record levels of rain that state meteorologists had predicted. “Do not use your vehicle if it is not strictly necessary and remain at home attentive to subsequent information updates,” warned the message in English and Spanish, which was received by all mobile phones present at that time in the region.
“We were all scared,” admitted a museum hostess. It is rare for an alarm to sound in the Prado. If it happens, they are all trained to know that it is a very serious event like a bomb threat or a fire. But that high-pitched beep was unfamiliar to them. For the tourists the surprise was double. Many, outside Twitter (currently X) and the news from Spain, had no idea that a huge storm was expected. Luckily, no one ran away in panic. “We looked at the phone and calmed down,” this flight attendant smiled. Quickly, the head concierge, the most responsible for the museum’s hostesses, announced via walkie talkie that the center would remain open until 7:00 p.m., as usual.
A Dutch tourist consults the alert sent to all mobile phones by the Community of Madrid. / MOEH ATITAR Moeh Atitar
A rumor had already been circulating in Madrid since Saturday that a rainy Filomena was coming. The State Meteorological Agency (Aemet) had increased the alert from orange to red (the highest of all) for the central area and the Madrid authorities increased caution, recommending not leaving homes and returning home by road earlier so that The return from vacation operation did not coincide with the worst of the rains, scheduled for late Sunday afternoon. The mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, warned that the upcoming situation was going to be “exceptional and anomalous”, since “a historical record that dates back to 1972” could be broken.
Many remembered the failure to manage the great snow storm two and a half years ago, when the metropolitan area was overwhelmed for days. Then, the storm surprised the population, but this time it was different. Meteorologists, first, and politicians later, warned of what could happen if the forecasts came true. And thanks to the alarm on mobile phones, no one could complain about lack of warning.
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The caution also seemed justified by precedents and the idea, already widespread, that Madrid collapses when four drops fall. The last example is very recent. In December, they suffered cuts in some of their stations on Metro lines 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 11 and there was no warning because the quantities expected (and collected) do not even reach the yellow level, the minimum.
Consistently, many scheduled a “Netflix afternoon” and canceled their outings to the mountains or their restaurant reservations. The City Council closed parks or sports centers and LaLiga suspended the match on the fourth day that they played at the Metropolitan Atlético de Madrid and Seville. Firefighters and police were deployed throughout the region. But with the afternoon already advanced, barely more rain had fallen than normal on a winter day and the question circulated through the streets and WhatsApp groups of Madrid as to why the forecasts had failed, sparking discussions about how complex it is to predict accurately. where a storm is going to fall and whether people will take the next warning seriously again, if it is repeated.
Pedestrians on Gran Vía in Madrid this Sunday. JUAN BARBOSA
It was expected that up to 120 liters per square meter would fall in 12 hours in Madrid (from 12:00 to 0:00). However, registrations fell short, especially in the capital. Until 10:00 p.m., 80.5 liters had been collected in Aemet observatories in Villanueva de la Cañada, 57.8 in Navacerrada, 45 in Pozuelo, 43 in Rascafría, 36 in the capital and in San Sebastián de los Reyes and 35, 2 in Alcalá de Henares. Around 6:00 p.m., the rain left the capital without leaving the “extraordinary amounts” predicted by Aemet, which lowered the alert to orange in the entire region, except in the southwest.
In terms of incidents, the worst was in the south and west of the region, where the Meteoclimatic fan network has measured 125 liters in Robledo and 90 in Navalcarnero. In the community, between 2:00 p.m. and 1:30 a.m., 1,257 files related to storms have been managed, with 726 interventions by firefighters. The most affected area has been southwest: municipalities of Aldea del Fresno, Villa Del Prado, Villamanta, Villamantilla, Villanueva de Perales, Navalcarnero and El Álamo, where flooding has occurred on public roads, roads and in homes. “There have been numerous rescues of people in homes and vehicles.” At the end of the day, the Community’s emergency agency described the situation in that area as “very complicated” and videos of floods and neighbors bailing water were shared on social networks.
In the capital, however, no major damage was reported. A report from the City Council late in the afternoon indicated that there had been fallen branches, small floods and ponds on public roads and in some tunnels, as well as social assistance at various points. Metro cut off circulation for just an hour at the Loranca station (line 12) and at the Las Tablas light rail. The most serious interruption affected line 11, between La Fortuna and La Peseta, where the trains stopped between 5:00 p.m. and 8:50 p.m. Flights and trains to and from Madrid also suffered numerous delays, as did the Cercanías C-4, which runs through the region from south to north.
And what has happened to the forecasts then? Meteorologists warn of the difficulty of predicting the exact location of storms and the amount of precipitation. Madrid capital and its metropolitan area were spared major damage, but the south of the region and Toledo suffered consequences.
Miguel Ángel Pelacho, delegate of Aemet Madrid, explains that “the precipitation has been more localized to the west of Madrid and in the mountains and not so much in the city due to the movement of the dana”, while highlighting that the liters fallen are not amounts that are not negligible at all. Pelacho defends the decision to decree the maximum warning: “When the (prediction) models give a situation between an orange and a red warning, as a precaution they tend to turn red, especially if it affects a large population.”
The biggest controversy arose at the end of the day, when the Andalusian president, Juanma Moreno, criticized the alarmism in Madrid. “On days like today, caution is necessary and not putting lives at risk,” she wrote on her X profile at 10:00 p.m. on Sunday. “If a public body warns of ‘extreme danger’ it must be very sure, because that has social and economic consequences. All caution. Rigor, too.” Sources from the Ministry of the Interior consulted by EL PAÍS assure that “the alert was launched by 112 in Madrid,” reports Patricia Ortega Dolz. According to these sources, Aemet only issued a red notice, without qualifying and the “extreme danger” was determined by the Community of Madrid, which is governed by the also popular Isabel Díaz Ayuso.
Perhaps among those most affected by the alarm were hospitality businessmen. Fer, a waiter at the Japy Bar in the central neighborhood of La Latina, said while cleaning after lunchtime that they had noticed a little less clientele: “Now in the afternoon, our boss has told us to close, just in case now Yes, something else falls and then we can’t go back home.”
However, other bars made a good case. “At seven in the morning we raised the blinds and there were already people waiting, like other days, and customers have not stopped coming in all day, the same goes for the rest of the bars in the square,” said the waitress at the Ribera bar. who preferred not to give his name. “The only thing different was that at two in the afternoon the alarm went off for all of us at the same time,” noted Anastasio, a regular customer and neighbor of the neighborhood, while he finished a vermouth.
El Rastro welcomed hundreds of people who did not stay at home. The visitors walked vigilantly under the overcast sky and dispersed when a few drops fell, first shortly before 11:00 and then more intensely around 2:00 p.m. They opened some stalls less than a usual Sunday and those who did picked up their belongings an hour earlier, something they usually do on a rainy day.
Tourists, like the Koreans who contemplated Las Meninas, sought shelter in their most common rain shelter, the Prado museum. When the water was heavy, they rushed to the Goya gate, where they had to queue for long minutes in the rain. A street vendor offered them medicine in Spanish and English: “Umbrellas, umbrellas, umbrellas, umbrellas, umbrellas, umbrellas.”
Others who took advantage of the day were the official guides offered at the doors of the museum. When it rains, even a little, tourists crowd the queue. When it clears, they leave.
“If it rains, everyone comes here. “All of them,” said Juanma Magueira, a tourist guide of Galician origin who called the forecasts exaggerated: “It never really rains in Madrid.”
Tourists queue at the Prado Museum this Sunday at noon.Moeh Aitar
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