The Heat Is Online

Central Chile Hit By Rare Snowstorm

Unusual Snowfall in Chilean Wine Region, Aug. 9, 2007

SANTIAGO - Snow coated the fields of Chile's normally temperate central valley wine and farm region for the first time in half a century on Wednesday, causing officials to declare an emergency to avoid traffic accidents.

The Maule region, located about 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of the capital Santiago, where snow fell for four hours, was the most affected.

Television images showed snow covering fields that typically get nothing more than a constant drizzle of rain during the winter season.

The snow also caused the Libertadores Mountain Pass, which connects central Chile with neighboring Argentina, to be closed. Closing of the pass due to the harsh winter conditions high in the Andes Mountains is not uncommon.

Meteorologists said the snowfall could extend later in the day to Santiago, with a population of 6 million, especially in the areas closest to the mountains.

Chile is facing its coldest winter in 30 years, and the National Emergency Office is recommending that older people and children stay indoors.