The Rimutaka Hill Rd is closed until further notice due to snow, while wintry weather has been blamed for several traffic accidents around the Wellington region tonight.
Police said the icy road conditions and wind had caused several accidents this evening, including a four-car accident on Western Hutt Rd at 5.30pm, which left the road partially blocked.
Weather was also blamed for a two-vehicle nose-to-tail just past the Terrace Tunnel and for a power line down in Miramar.
The Rimutaka Hill Rd and Desert Rd, between Taihape and Rangipo, were both closed until further notice this evening.
The NZ Transport Agency was also advising drivers on SH4 and SH49 near Raetihi and Ohakune and SH2 between Wairoa and Gisborne to drive with extreme caution.
Public transport in Wellington was also affected by the weather, with two evening train services between the city and Johnsonville cancelled due to slippery tracks.
The East to West ferry ran only its largest vessel in the early evening and replaced its last sailing with a shuttle service.
Unusually high tides combined with wild weather closed the road to Eastbourne this evening.
Marine Pde was affected by surface flooding and washed-up debris, causing Hutt City Council to close it at 8pm.
Council workers working to clear the debris were expected to re-assess the closure after 9pm.
Rimutaka Hill Rd has been closed for much of the day, opening intermittently to let motorists through when weather allowed.
At one stage today, more than a dozen vehicles were stranded at the top of the hill. The road was opened briefly to allow them to pass, but closed soon after.
Snow and sleet continue to fall at the summit, with about 10 to 15cm having built up.
Driver Stuart Wright lost control of his car on the hill, his Ford Mondeo slipping a short way off the road and taking minor damage.
Carterton transport company owner and driver Tony Olszewski said this morning he had two trucks at the bottom of the hill, on the Hutt Valley side, filled with vegetables and fruit for Wairarapa supermarkets.
The road re-opening meant he could continue on his route and would not have to travel via the Pahiatua Track, which would have meant a long detour via Palmerston North.
Featherston locals Jason Brixton, 24, and Elena Lynch, 20, were on their way over the hill to help a family member paint his house in Petone, but changed their minds when they reached the summit.
After throwing a few snowballs, they opted to head back down the hill to the Wairarapa, rather then risk being stuck in Petone if the snow settled in.
The snow is expected to spread, with Metservice saying Wellington’s hill suburbs could be in for snow this evening.
Snow was expected in Karori, Northland, and Johnsonville tonight.
Just before 11am, MetService issued watches and warnings for heavy snow in the far south of the South Island,the central North Island high country and high ground in Wellington and Wairarapa.
''The snow could cause major disruption to transport and motorists are advised to proceed with caution. Frosts overnight could also make driving conditions hazardous, even in areas not directly affected by snow.''
Hailstorms were also reported in central Wellington today.
MetService meteorologist Dan Corbett said the temperature at the top of the Rimutaka Hill was 1degC at 9.15am.
Ten to 20cm of snow was forecast for the road tonight. Not all would settle.
Kelburn was 5C at 9.15am, while Wellington Airport was 7C and Lower Hutt was 4C.
Mr Corbett also had some good news: ‘‘By Thursday and Friday we are back into the middle teens and sunshine.’’
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Meanwhile, a thunderstorm moved through Wairarapa about 6pm yesterday with flashes of lightning visible in Wellington.
A dusting of snow could be visible on the Tararua Ranges today.
A severe weather watch was in place for areas around Taranaki and Whanganui, where squally thunderstorms were likely.
Some thunder and hail could be coming to Wairarapa this afternoon and Hawke’s Bay could get snow to 500m above sea level, with showers towards the coast.
- The Dominion Post
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