Snow closes central roads

Last updated 21:32 14/08/2014
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Snow caused traffic chaos on North Island roads tonight with all main highways between Wellington and Auckland at varying times blocked off.

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Police central communications shift inspector Marc Clausen said snow is falling on the Napier Taupo Road, on top of the Rimutakas just north of Wellington, between Taihape and Turangi, in Stratford, Taranaki, and between National Park and Taumarunui. 

Clausen said the widespread snowfall across the North Island meant the key central North Island routes between Auckland and Wellington were closed.  

Even the Hawke's Bay to Auckland and New Plymouth to Auckland routes were possibly impassable as snow was falling on the Napier Taupo Road and in Taranaki. 

"The best thing people can do tonight is stay at home and check the NZTA website before they go anywhere," Clausen said.

At the height of the early evening snowstorm north of Wellington, 13 cars and a truck and trailer unit were trapped on the Rimutaka Hill road summit about 8pm.

Clausen said contractor Fulton-Hogan staffers managed to shepherd the motorists back down the hill in their snow-covered cars. 

"But the truck and trailer unit is stuck up there. They're still working on that," Clausen said.

Hundreds of people wanting to get to their Wairarapa homes after work  from Wellington remained trapped in the capital overnight. 

Christine Ammunson was among the motorists trapped on the Upper Hutt side of the hill when she endeavoured to drive home after finishing work late at the Human Rights Commission. 

"The road was closed when I got to the bottom of the hill north of Upper Hutt about 7:45 tonight. I turned round and headed back towards Wellington. 

"I'll be getting to work early in the morning. I'm lucky I've got people I can stay with," Ammunson said. 

The major beneficiary of the snow fall, Mt Ruapehu, was also proving difficult to access tonight.

The temperature at Waiouru tonight is 0 degrees, while the temperature at Raetihi and Ohakune is slightly warmer at 2degC. 

A MetService spokesman expected snow to continue falling on the North Island's central plateau until about midnight.

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