Traffic came to a standstill Monday and Tuesday north of Quito as snow and ice covered the highway in Papallacta. Mountains in the area that rarely see snow, were covered in drifts as deep as two feet.
Near Cuenca, in Biblian, an intense hail storm Tuesday afternoon covered streets and yards in almost a foot of ice. Neighborhood children converged on a local football field to throw snowballs and slip and slide across the icy surface.
According to the national weather service, the unusual weather is the result of a strong flow of moist Amazon air colliding with cold, dry air rising from the inter-Andean valley. “The snow and hail are not unknown in this region but the intensity of some of the storms has surprised us,” said meteorologist Édgar Vaca. “This is the third time in four months we have seen snow accumulations below 3,500 meters.”
According to Vaca, the most intense weather is occurring in the northern Andes where many areas are experiencing 24 hours of fog and cloud cover. The southern Andes, including Cuenca, have seen intense afternoon storms but with sunny mornings and mostly clear nights.
Vaca says the moist air system from the east will break down in the coming days, returning the weather to seasonal norms.