Fourth day of snow

Wellington tested by storm

Last updated 05:00 17/08/2011
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Georgia and Josh Pattison of Wainuiomata having fun playing in their first snowfall.
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The Wellington Cable Car makes its way up the hill during snowfall.
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The big snow might not have lead to a full scale civil defence emergency, but it did make Wellingtonians get prepared.

Latest key information: Schools, roads, buses, trains, airports

Power cuts, cancelled transport services and treacherous roads forced Wellington City Council to issue a civil defence warning on Monday.

Today, Citioperations manager Mike Mendonca said even though a full civil defence emergency never eventuated, many Wellingtonians learnt a good lesson this week.

"It hasn't been a massive event but a good reminder for people to check their emergency supplies."

Dips in Wellington's power supply, which threatened a full scale outage on Monday night, sent many people checking their emergency kits.

Mr Mendonca said the snow storm and the possibility of being cut off from other communities or without power had encouraged people to check how prepared they were for an emergency.

"It's been quite a test for some people."

COLD WEATHER TO CONTINUE

Bitter winds will continue to lash the Wellington region today, making coastal conditions particularly bad.

Metservice forecaster Andy Downs said the wet, windy, cold weather which now blanketed the capital was here to stay for at least the next few days.

Thursday: Cold and showery. Very cold southerlies. High 8degC
Friday: Showers. Strong cold southerlies. High 8degC
Saturday: Showers clearing, fine breaks. Southerlies easing. High 10degC
Sunday: Frosty and sunny, but late showery southerlies.High 11degC

Although the winds were helping to keep temperatures a little higher than they had been over the last three days, he said the combination of today's wet and windy conditions could make the weather feel worse for some people.

"Now it's cold and showery. For some people it will feel even more bitterly cold. People need to wrap up."

Since the southerly picked up yesterday evening, temperatures at Wellington Airport had remained about 7degC.

In Lower Hutt they were about 4degC, and 3degC in Upper Hutt.

The Metservice was not expecting any more snow to fall or settle at low levels, and it would be restricted now to about 300 to 400m.

The southerly would continue to bring showers, making for a miserable end to the week.

"Unfortunately this is going to carry on for a few days."

Rain showers, sometimes with a little hail mixed in, would combine with the wind  to make for gusty, bitter conditions until the weekend.

The snow around the Wellington region would now be restricted to the higher hills, Mr Down said.

PASSENGER FERRIES CANCELLED

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Passenger sailings across Cook Strait will resume tomorrow at 8.25am.

All passenger ferries were cancelled today due to expected 7m swells. Less than 200 passengers were effected by the cancellations, and had been offered passage on tomorrow's ferries.

Interislander spokeswoman Cathie Bell said, weather depending, the Kaitaki would board passengers for its 8.25am sailing from Wellington to Picton tomorrow and the return sailing at 1.45pm.

The Arahura is also expected to resume its normal passenger sailing schedule from Wellington to Picton at 2.40pm tomorrow afternoon, returning at 6.40pm.

Bluebridge spokeswoman Wendy Pannett said the masters on board the Santa Regina and The Straitsman had yet to make a call on when their vessels would resume freight and passenger sailings.

RESIDENTS LOSE POWER

High winds and snow caused more damage to power lines overnight, with about 1500 properties in the lower North Island having a cold awakening to no electricity today.

The properties without supply are spread across South Taranaki, rural Wanganui, Manawatu and Wairarapa, including new damage in and around Hunterville, Coonoor and Haunui.

Powerco aimed to have power back up today, with around 130 field staff repairing damage caused when trees and branches tore down power lines.

BEWARE BLACK ICE AND WIND CHILL

Black ice, strong southerlies and severe wind chills will create treacherous conditions around the country for days, despite the end of the polar blast being in sight.

Power outages, closed schools and blocked roads have already caused misery and havoc throughout the lower North Island and authorities will remain on high alert for more disturbances even as conditions ease.

MetService spokesman Bob McDavitt said that once the polar blast had passed, cold and cloudy conditions lay in its wake.

Businesses face another day of staff absences today as more heavy snow across Wellington last evening saw police and councils issue further warnings to motorists to stay off roads.

Schools will again assess this morning if it is safe for them to open, and power companies battled stormy conditions that presented the risk of further outages.

Mr McDavitt said icy southerly winds that had battered Wellington and Wairarapa would gradually ease from later today.

"While more snow is likely, the end is in sight. It's still a few days away, though."

Much of the country would be covered with a cold, cloudy high from Sunday night, but this, too, came with a warning.

"The air is so cold that frosts are likely even in cloudy conditions. For the next few days frosts will be severe in many places, and there is likely to be a lot of black ice on roads."

SNOW CAUSES MINOR INJURIES

Hospitals were treating patients who had been injured because of the snow and ice.

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.

SNOW AFFECTS TV

Those keeping warm and safe indoors were, however, also feeling the effects, with Freeview customers losing reception in blizzard conditions.

Sky spokeswoman Kirsty Way said there was a problem with snow falling into the uplink dish at TVNZ's Avalon studios in Lower Hutt, affecting the Freeview channels. The problem, which started at 5.30pm, was resolved within about 40 minutes.

- The Dominion Post

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