Winter came back with a vengeance this afternoon when a southerly storm struck the capital.
Metservice meterologist Liz Walsh said forecasters had been waiting for the southerly change to strike and it did so with force.
"About 1pm we saw Kaikoura have a five degree drop in temperature and wind went from basically nothing - about 20kmh - to 89kmh almost instantly.''
She said that quickly made its way to the capital with temperature drops of 5C at the airport and 6C in Kelburn.
"It was a southerly buster that brought thunderstorms and hail.''
Lightning struck the 'needle' sculpture on the Evans Bay waterfront, leaving it charred and split.
High winds have toppled a tree onto powerlines, which have then fallen onto State Highway 2 between Masterton and Carterton.
Traffic is being diverted along side roads around the scene, in the Waingawa area, causing delays.
Masterton traffic sergeant Chris Megaw said the lines came down about 3.30pm in high winds. Powerco workers were trying to clear the road but he could not say how long it would take.
Meanwhile, snow was falling heavily on the Rimutaka summit this afternoon.
The cold weather has brought snow to the Desert Road, which has closed the state highway between Waiouru and Rangipo.
Walsh said tomorrow morning would be fine and a little bit of rain was expected in the afternoon - "but nothing like what we had today''.
By the weekend it would be back to fine and sunny for Wellington.
All East by West ferries have been cancelled to Days Bay and replaced by shuttles from Queens Wharf at 5.30pm and 6.30pm.
Interislander ferries were expected to have disruptions later this evening with forecasted 7m high waves in the Cook Strait.
Interislander spokesman Michael Flyger said the Kaitaki ferry would depart at 8pm tonight as scheduled and radio the port to report on the situation.
"Based on that we will make a decision about whether Aratere will depart at 11.20pm.''
Wellington Airport remains open and flights are continuing but there have been some cancellations and delays.
Green MP Gareth Hughes was on an Air New Zealand plane that had to enter the southerly buster in order to land at Wellington airport this afternoon.
Hughes said he had been on worse flights but there was a lot of clapping from the passengers when they safely landed.
The flight captain had informed passengers they only had 15 minutes worth of petrol left before they would have to divert to Christchurch if they couldn't land.
"We flew right alongside the front for about ten minutes, which was pretty impressive, as we were surrounded in blue sky but we could see the cloud storms rolling in next to us.''
He said there was a series of water whirlpools, similar to water spouts, at the edge of the front and passengers braced themselves as the plane entered the storm to land.
CENTRAL NORTH ISLAND
NZTA is recommending people wishing to drive from Bulls through to Hamilton to take the Parapara route from Whanganui to Raetihi, National Park, Taumarunui and Te Kuiti.
Skiers wishing to travel to Mt Ruapehu's Turoa skifield from Wellington are being advised to take the Paraparas Road to Raetihi from Whanganui and then check whether the 11km road from Raetihi to Ohakune is open.
A MetService spokesman said the Desert Road between Waiouru and Turangi was closed because of snow.
The temperature at Waiouru tonight is 0 degrees, while.the temperature at Raetihi and Ohakune is slightly warmer at 2degC.
Snow was also falling on the road between Waiouru and Ohakune, with reports of up to 5cm of snow having fallen on Tangiwai over the past two hours.
The MetService spokesman expected snow to continue falling on the North Island's central plateau until about midnight.
Motorists heading north from Wellington tonight were being urged to check on the status of roads at Bulls before heading through Hunterville to Taihape on State Highway One.
- The Dominion Post
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