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Ice and snow snarl traffic east of Quito as ‘ugly weather’ settles over the country

Icy conditions stopped most traffic Thursday morning between Baeza and Quito. (El Comercio)

More than a hundred cars and trucks have been stranded in the higher mountains east of Quito as snow and ice make highways impassable. At mid-morning Thursday, about 60 vehicles were idled at the entrance to the Cayambe-Coca Reserve and the Papallacta – Baeza highway remained closed as work crews cleared the ice.

The highway is the main route from the Amazonian cities of Tena and Nuevo Loja to Quito.

“The rain and snow have created a sheet of ice on the roadways in the higher elevations and this must be cleared before traffic can move safely,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Transportation said early Thursday afternoon. He added that the weather was “ugly and not getting any better.”

The spokesman urged Quito-bound drivers from the Amazon to take the Baños-Puyo-Ambato highway as an alternative.

Ecuador’s meteorology institute reports that light rain was falling over much of the country and the weather pattern is expected to continue through Friday. “We have rain and heavy clouds from the Colombian border in the north to the Peruvian border in the south,” the institute reported. “Low temperatures at higher elevations are making conditions worse in many locations.”

At noon on Thursday, a weather satellite image showed most of the country under heavy cloud cover with occasional rain.

The institute predicted that the mountains and inter-mountain valley will see a warming trend beginning in about two weeks with “a return to seasonal norms.”