By Humphrey Carter
TEMPERATURES fell to new record lows on Thursday night in the Balearics and yesterday the local government issued a warning to day-trippers to stay away from the snow and the mountains this weekend.
None of the Balearic islands have escaped the grip of the polar front and in Ibiza the temperatures dropped to -5ºC, the lowest since 1965, while in Majorca, the average overnight temperature was 0ºC.
What is more, despite yesterday's relatively clear skies, it is only going to get colder with a new polar front looming.
School transport services returned to normal although the situation will be assessed again on Monday in Majorca and Minorca as the authorities started preparing well in advance for the next cold snap which is forecast to hit tomorrow.
In Minorca, the authorities have enrolled the services of local construction companies in the event of further heavy snowfalls.
In Majorca yesterday afternoon, emergency units were still trying to re-open the Andratx to Pollensa road while snow chains were still needed on the drive up to Lluc from Pollensa.
Drivers were also having difficulties on the roads in and around Bunyola, Orient and Alaro.
After yesterday morning's crisis meeting, the government's emergency service has been advised by the Balearic met. office that the second polar front arriving tomorrow night will not be as severe, but temperatures will still fall to freezing overnight causing black ice on the roads.
The Balearics will, for the time being, remain on category one alert and Civil Protection units have been asked to mount traffic and road controls in the areas of Soller, Fornalutx, Pollensa and Caimari this weekend.
A huge road inspection operation is to be launched at 5am on Monday in order to make the roads as safe as possible before rush hour.
Social Services have taken in an extra 16 homeless people over the past few days and have been feeding and caring for a further 47 who are still refusing to enter one of the local authority centres.
Despite an extra 50 beds being made available because of the cold snap, there are still 12 empty beds in the capital.
The emergency mobile units have extended their night time patrols in order to care for those continuing to sleep rough and prostitutes working the streets. The 112 emergency telephone centre is also fully staffed and people are urged to contact the centre should they spot anyone who they fear may be in need of help.
Outbreaks of rain turning to snow above 500 metres are forecast for this afternoon in Majorca with the snow line dropping to as low as 150 metres in Minorca once again.
It will be colder during today, although the strong northerly winds will add to the wind chill factor, but there will be little change in temperatures tonight.
Sunday will be another wet and windy day with snow forecast above 300 metres and the temperatures will drop slightly.
North, north easterly winds will remain strong.
Monday will see the Balearics start to dry out with only a few isolated showers and the odd flurry of snow above 500 metres.
The temperatures will finally rise very slightly with the gale force winds moving off to Minorca.
Clear skies are forecast for Tuesday along with another slight rise in the temperatures which should, according to the met. office, mark the end of this polar freeze.
The Spanish met. office's chief forecaster, Angel Rivera, said yesterday that there is a 70 percent probability that the polar front will leave us on Tuesday.
There is a very minor possibility, 30 percent, of another, but much weaker, cold front replacing it. However temperatures should return to double figures in some parts of the country.