There is a saying in Spanish about springtime weather which goes “when in March it Mays, in May it Marches.” Maybe I am just one of those souls who are subject to the power suggestion, but I am inclined to believe that, over the years, the meteorological theorem for the most parts holds true. And presumably the opposite is true under normal circumstances.
Well, I can promise you that we can expect some great weather in May because it has been about as marchy a March as you can get. Rain, rain and more rain, with a few gusty days to boot. Part of this has to do with the fact that it is Semana Santa and it always rains at Semana Santa. The clouds wait for the first pasos to emerge from the church threshold and, boom, your average healthy downpour.
This year the precipitation has been particularly abundant. In a sense this is great because Spain is a land which is almost never quite satisfied in terms of rainfall. And once the dry summers drift in, there is no hope until fall again. That’s why winter rain and snowfall are vital, and this year has been particularly positive in this sense. The Sierra de Madrid has been smothered with a thick layer of snow. Some may be surprised to read that there are mountains so close to the capital, aren’t we supposed to be in the open plains? Despite Henry Higgins’ little rhymes to get a person to speak the way no sane human would want to, Spain, while home to large stretches of open plains, also happens to be the second most mountainous country in Europe, after Switzerland. I am dead serious. The Sistema Central, or Central Mountain Range, a chain that forms a bumpy southwest-to-northeast scar across the heart of the land, and dividesSpaininto basically two major climates. They aren’t the Alps but they’re no slouches either. Many peaks soar above the 7000ft mark, higher than anything you would find east of the Mississippi and the tallest in Madrid, Peñalara, stands at just a hair below 8,000ft, making it in my opinion, officially rugged in nature and not to be taken lightly by inexperienced climbers, especially during the winter. In fact, two people had to be rescued just the other day when they got disoriented and had to spend the night near the summit in a makeshift igloo. And if I recall correctly, several unwary and unfortunate hikers have lost their lives up there.
Here is some physical proof.
This is a shot of the pine forest near the top of the Navafría pass. It’s still about a 1,000ft below the highest point up there called El Nevero. I topped it last summer in August, and I can promise you that even then it was somewhat chilly during the day. There was a chance I was going to head up there in March. Snow-whitened escarpments are a habitual part of the landscape at this time of year, and it isn’t unusual for patches of the frozen precipitation to be seen well into June.
So, as I was saying, the precipitation has been outrageously plentiful and the reservoirs are full to the hilt. Capacity, which, you might be interested to know, is about 87%. It sounds a little odd, I agree, kind of like perfect unemployment rate being somewhere in the neighborhood of 4%, but it is necessary to avoid a sudden rush of water and having it all spill over in an uncontrolled manner. That way, the region has some leeway. Still, it isn’t often we can enjoy this much hydro-comfort and there are some who criticize the authorities for not having set aside more room to increase the supply, because, as anyone who has lived here long knows, dry spells can go one for a long time in this country. For those of you who are boring like me and get a kick out of following these things, you can go to the Canal Isabel II website and get a daily update and the levels, reservoir by reservoir.
So, if Spanish sayings are anything to go by, we can expect a great May to enjoy the best springtime in this city can offer the visitor and resident alike.