Wellington's second coldest day
Treacherous conditions are causing travel havoc with road closures and delays or cancellations on many bus services.
Valley Flyer buses to and from Wainuiomata have been cancelled as travelling conditions over the hill become too dangerous.
There are also delays and shortened bus routes on many services in both Wellington and the Hutt Valley.
If buses are not running part or whole routes this evening then Metlink said it was safe to assume it would be a similar situation in the morning.
Motorists are being urged to stay off Wellington roads as snow falls around the region.
Wainuiomata Hill Rd was closed at 3.45pm. Rimutaka Hill Rd remains closed and State Highway 58 (Haywards Hill Rd), was "marginal", central communications Inspector Ken Climo said.
"What we're advising motorists to do is stay off the roads," Mr Climo said. "Necessary travel only. If they are going to travel they've got to be prepared for it … the road conditions are treacherous."
Motorists should make alternative arrangements such as staying at friends' houses if it was a safer option.
In Upper Hutt, Moonshine Hill Road, Blue Mountains Road, Mangaroa Hill Road and Wallaceville Hill Road are all closed and will remain closed over night.
Upper Hutt City Council is warning travellers wanting to access Mangaroa and Whiteman’s Valley to use Plateau Road. The dip in Parkes Line Road is open with assistance and likely delays. Efforts will continue to keep this road open overnight.
Wellington City council is advising motorists to avoid driving in suburbs where it is reported to be snowing heavily.
Those suburbs include Karori, Kelburn, Khandallah, Brooklyn, Northland, Wilton, Wadestown, Johnsonville, Broadmeadows and Newlands.
The council has posted 'road closed' signs at the Karori end of the Makara Hill Road - which was also closed last night. 'Road closed' signs may also again be posted at Orangi-Kaupapa Road in Northland and Horokiwi West Road in Newlands if the snow continues.
If the cold weather continues then the council will again advise motorists not to drive tomorrow morning unless absolutely necessary.
Te Wharau Rd at Gladstone, east of Carterton, is closed at the Te Wharau/Te Whiti intersection and will remain so overnight.
The Wellington Cable Car was put out of action during the power fluctuations last night and has remained out of use all day.
Technicians are hoping it will be back in action tomorrow but the council said this could not be guaranteed.
Train services on the Hutt Valley line have been delayed and slowed by a breakdown of one train in Upper Hutt and heavy snow on the Hutt Valley line.
Transmetro spokeswoman Sophie Lee said trains could run when there was snow on the lines but the loss of traction forced them to run more slowly.
Two of this afternoon's commuter trains on the Kapiti line were cancelled but buses services around Wellington are all running to schedule.
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Slips and falls on snow and ice have landed a few people in hospital.
Capital Coast District Health Board emergency management specialist Craig Wallace said it had been busy treating people after slips and trips and two snowboarders suffered minor injuries after falling on Mt Kaukau.
"A lot of elderly patients have presented with everything from a dislocated shoulder, upper arm and wrist fractures to a dislocated ankle," he said.
A Hutt Valley Health spokeswoman said about a dozen people had been treated in the accident and emergency department for minor strains and sprains.
Heavy snow started falling in Wellington just before 3pm.
MetService spokesman Bob McDavitt warned that although the end was in sight for the polar blast, there was still more bad weather on the way before the worst was over.
The Cook Strait is expected to get choppy this evening with southerly winds rising to 45 knots, MetService says.
Swells of up to 5m could hang around until Thursday when gales ease to 30 knots, severe weather forecaster Erick Brenstrum said.
Snow will turn to sleety showers in Wellington over the next few days.
"It's going to keep on being miserable in the sense that it's cold.
"We'll probably get two to three more days of cold rain or sleety showers off and on, not essentially heavy but irritating and the temperature will stay in single digits."
Mr Brenstrum expected the worse to be over by Friday.
The weight of snow has bought down spouting on some houses in snowbound Whitemans Valley, Upper Hutt.
Local plumber Henk Otte, who lives in the valley, said several neighbours had lost their spouting.
"They've got steep pitched roof houses and they're just not designed to take all that snow,'' said Mr Otte who is one of many residents who were cut off by the snow last night.
Meanwhile, the insurance industry is bracing for a run of icy weather-related claims but it is too early to say what the financial toll of the snow storm might be, says the Insurance Council.
Insurance Council spokesman Brett Solvander said many people might claim for cars that had slid off roads and there could be claims from frozen pipes bursting.
"We're still in the process of the event, we're probably only half way through it. The weather is expected to be bad again today and possibly tomorrow.
"We'll start to see claims coming in two to three weeks time. It is very early days.
"People are focussed on trying to get by rather than contacting their insurer and then the claims adjusters have to get out.''
Mr Solvander also expected travel insurance claims where flights had been disrupted, but damage so far seemed to be quite minimal.
WELLINGTON'S SECOND COLDEST DAY ON RECORD
Yesterday was the second coldest day since records began at Wellington Airport in 1959.
The maximum air temperature peaked at 6.8 degrees Celsius - slightly warmer than the record lowest high of 6.5C, NIWA climate scientist Georgina Griffiths said.
The lowest high of 6.5C was recorded during the last snow event that hit most of the country in June 1976, Mrs Griffiths said.
Meanwhile, Auckland experienced the coldest day with the temperature rising to just 8.1C - colder than the previous record of 8.7C in July 1996 at the airport.
Wellington businesses are battling staff shortages as closed schools, cancelled transport, power cuts and treacherous road conditions affect residents.
The freezing weather has meant more than a dozen schools in Wellington have closed, buses have been cancelled and roads in some suburbs have been declared hazardous.
Many businesses have had staff call in unable to make it into work as they need to stay at home with children.
Wellington Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ken Harris said some staff were also unwilling to risk driving to work.
Mr Harris said the Chamber had about 10 per cent of its staff working from home today, with one employee sending an email saying:
"Road has black ice, too dangerous to drive. Some people have tried and now road is blocked off with tow services. So, I'm working from home."
Staff shortages have closed libraries in Cummings Park (Ngaio), Johnsonville, Karori, Khandallah, Tawa and Wadestown.
No mail is being delivered to the Lower North Island as posties have been unable to reach their destinations.
PUBLIC SERVICE DISRUPTIONS
Council rubbish and recycling collections may be disrupted today, as trucks struggle make it up some of the higher and steeper streets in the western suburbs. Affected residents should take their rubbish and recycling back and hold it until the next scheduled collection day.
Libraries in Cummings Park (Ngaio) Johnsonville, Karori, Khandallah, Tawa and Wadestown are closed due to staff shortages.
The Nairnville Recreation Centre in Khandallah is also closed.
No mail is being delivered to the lower North Island today, as snow and ice stop posties from being able to reach their destinations.
The Wellington Mail Centre was closed overnight, with ongoing weather issues in some suburbs preventing mail delivery.
Taranaki, Manawatu and Wairarapa would also be without mail service today.
Several schools in Wellington have also closed, including Wadestown School and Karori Normal School.
Some Wellington buses are running this morning, while other services are limited or have been cancelled.
Loud thunder and lightning strikes hit the Wellington region last night and power tripped out regularly. Wellington Energy spokesman Drew Douglas said the company was "in a heightened level of preparedness".
Wellington Civil Defence manager Rian Van Schalkwyk urged people to stock up on essential supplies and be ready to be stuck inside their homes for a couple of days. "People should prepare for the worst, which means making sure they're ready in the event that they cannot leave home and may be without electricity and other amenities."
Intermittent power cuts hit many parts of Wellington last night, and power was cut to about 11,000 homes in Petone, Seaview, Gracefield, Wainuiomata, central Lower Hutt and Lowry Bay for about an hour in the afternoon.
Electricity demand soared yesterday, exceeding that of July 25 when a similar antarctic blast saw much of New Zealand come to a standstill. Demand peaked at 6500 megawatts at 9am on Monday, about 500MW more than for the same day last year.
The Dominion Post