Airports reopen in Canary Islands following heavy weekend winds, sandstorm

Flights ground to a halt at the Gran Canaria, and all other airports in the Canary Islands as a sandstorm buffeted the Spanish archipelago over the weekend. (Photo: CNN)

Airports in the Canary Islands have officially resumed operations on Monday (Feb. 24) as local authorities felt comfortable that windy conditions and a thick sandstorm have lifted, improving visibility.

Affected by air thickened with sand and dust from the Sahara Desert, the weekend sandstorm was accompanied by wind gusts up to 120 kph (around 75 mph).

The strong winds also fanned at least three wildfires on different islands of the Spanish archipelago some 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of the African coast.

Primary schools, however, remain closed on all eight islands until further notice.

Ángel Víctor Torres, head of the regional government, called the sandstorm the worst in four decades—joining authorities as the islands hope the situation continues to settle.

“It’s been a nightmare of a weekend,” Torres told Spain’s public broadcaster TVE. “We haven’t seen an episode like this in 40 years.”

AENA, the Spanish airports’ operator, said in a tweet that flights had resumed from all eight airports of the archipelago.

“At this time, all airports are able to operate with reduced capacity,” AENA tweeted.

Incoming and outgoing flights were cancelled due to the wind gusts and thick yellow haze that enveloped the islands.

The phenomenon is known locally as “la calima”, referring to the seasonal winds that scoop up to clouds of sand and dust from the Sahara.