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Snow and ice slow traffic near Cuenca due to unseasonably cold weather

The National Institute of Meteorology says a cold front from the south is responsible for the unseasonably cool temperatures on recent mornings in Cuenca and the southern Andean valley. The front is responsible for near-record snowfall in the Cajas Mountains, west of Cuenca, causing several accidents on the Cuenca-Guayaquil highway.

A police officer directs traffic Wednesday on the Cuenca-Guayaquil highway in the Cajas Mountains. (El Comercio)

Oddly enough, says meteorologist Javier Macas, the recent sunny weather is partly to blame for the cool temperatures. “The clear skies during the day allow temperatures to drop rapidly after dark,” he says. “In the Cajas, the overnight participation turned to snow Monday and Tuesday nights.”

On Wednesday, Cajas National Park personnel were advising hikers to avoid higher elevations of the park due to snowfall which, in some areas, reached a depth of 30 centimeters, obscuring trails.

In Cuenca, Wednesday morning low temperatures dropped to 5C degrees (41F) at the airport and 3C (38F) in San Joaquin.

Macas says that temperatures should return to normal by Friday, as the cold air move out.