BARRIO – Below-freezing temperatures, blustering wind and deep snow made for a disaster at the foot of the Andes Mountains in Chile, on the border of Argentina, over the weekend. Over 400 people were trapped in the mountain pass on both sides of the border, most of them were tourists and truck drivers.
The storm started on July 9 after shifting winds brought massive snowfall to the road, which is at an altitude of about 9,800 feet — higher than the peak of Mount Olympus in Washington. Visibility was at a minimum, as videos show people unable to see beyond a few feet in front of them.
“There are temperatures of minus 10 degrees Celsius and snow accumulation of more than 3 feet on the roads,” said Hector Tello, a municipal official in Argentina. “There were cars that could not continue their journey because of the fog and could not even open the doors to get out.”
On the Chilean side, federal police got to work on July 10 rescuing the close to 250 cars and drivers, according to Reuters. Rescue efforts were still ongoing on Monday, and police said four truck drivers couldn’t be evacuated, so they were taken to shelters to wait for the weather to clear up.
The winter has been a bit colder than normal for some parts of the area, Gilbert said. Santiago, Chile, is currently running 3.7 degrees below the typical monthly average, and due to the significant terrain along the border of Chile and Argentina, these areas tend to be hit the hardest with snowfall during the winter months.