Transit police placed warning signs at several locations on the Cuenca-Guayaquil highway in the Cajas mountains Saturday, as snow and ice slowed traffic. They said the warnings will remain in place in coming days due to cold temperatures.
Although snowfall near the highway totaled less than five centimeters (two inches) since Thursday, the main hazard was a glaze of ice covering the roadway at elevations above 4,200 meters.
Ecuador’s National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (INAMHI) predicted more snow flurries in the higher elevations of the Cajas as well as below-normal temperatures for another week. “High temperatures will range from three to seven degrees with lows four to eight degrees below zero,” INAMHI said in a Tweet.
Snowfall of up to 30 centimeters (one foot) was recorded at elevations of 4,400 meters a mile off the highway.
In Cuenca, the weather agency said cool weather will continue for several more days, with high temperatures averaging nine to 14 degrees Celsius (50 to 57 Fahrenheit) with lows seven to eight degrees (43 to 47 Fahrenheit). Temperatures will be slightly cooler in Cuenca’s western suburbs, with morning frost possible in San Joaquin.
INAMHI says temperatures in the sierra have been close to the seasonal average, slightly above normal in early July but two to three degrees below normal since mid-month. July and early August are the coolest time of the year in Ecuador due the strong flow of the Humboldt (Antarctic) current in the Pacific Ocean.