Snow in Square, temperature drops

JONATHON HOWE AND STACEY OLIVER
Last updated 12:00 15/08/2011

Let it snow in Manawatu

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Snow - Manawatu - Postie
ROBERT KITCHIN
The mail must get through at Ashhurst.

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LATEST: Snow has landed in The Square in Palmerston North for the first time in decades, as temperatures plummet and roads around the region become dangerous.

 

The white stuff fell in the central city on Monday afternoon, sending people looking through the record books for the last time snow landed in the middle of the city after dumps in rural areas.

The temperature in Palmerston North dropped from about 5 degrees Celsius in the afternoon to a chilly 0.5 degrees by 8pm. Metservice said that would feel like -4.

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Email editor@msl.co.nz with your snow pics, stories and videos and let us know the last time it snowed in central Palmerston North. 

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The snow fell in the city from about 4pm coating cars, grassed areas and transforming every surface. There were surreal scenes of people making mini snowmen in The Square and having snowball fights on Broadway Ave.

The rare sight even had people stopping in traffic to hop out of cars to take photos. People were also saying "Merry Christmas" to each other and singing Christmas carols.

But it wasn't all good news. Parts of the city and the wider region went without power about 7.30pm, but most homes had it restored withing half an hour.

 

 

Snow caused a number of road closures around the lower North Island, and motorists have been advised to avoid travelling unless absolutely necessary.

The Desert Rd on State Highway 1 remained closed on Monday as heavy snow is forecast to continue to fall along stretch of road from Rangipo through to Waiouru.

The Rimutaka road, on State Highway 2, was also closed on Monday, while Mt Bruce further north has reopened but motorists have been advised to use extreme caution.

Saddle Road, near Woodville, is closed due to snow. State Highway 3 between Woodville and Ashhurst is open, but motorists were advised to pass with care.

New Zealand Transport Agency spokesman Dave Bates urged those in the worst affected parts of the country to stay put, and said those who do need to travel should adjust their driving to the conditions, check the latest information before setting out, and allow extra time for the journey.
 
"Over the next few days we expect the conditions to continue to be treacherous and changeable, so it's important to be prepared for the unexpected by checking road conditions in advance.

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"In some cases the best advice will be not to drive at all. We're urging people to be cautious and look after the safety of their families."

"We understand the frustration and inconvenience these travel disruptions cause, but our number one concern is ensuring people's safety."

Manawatu residents have been encouraged to wrap up warm this week while an Antarctic blast hits the region.

Rare, light dustings of snow and ice hit Palmerston North and outlying areas on Monday night and MetService has predicted more of the same for Monday.

MetService forecaster Nic Bonnette said the southeasterly winds and showers would pick up this afternoon.

"We've got a high out in Australia and a low in the Pacific. In between them they are pushing southeasterlies from the far south."

Ms Bonnette said snow was a possibility until Thursday.

Rare snowfalls covered most of the lower and Central North Island overnight, damaging power lines and creating havoc on the roads.

Senior Sergeant Brett Calkin said motorists should drive carefully in poor weather, and should only go driving if necessary.

"Generally our climate is pretty mild year round so many of us aren't used to driving in very cold conditions.

"If you don't need to go driving out of town where it's been snowing then don't. It's all very nice to go sightseeing when the kids have never seen snow before but there are some hazards involved.

"Be aware of the problems with black ice. It tends to occur in areas outside of town where the road is in shade a lot but essentially it's a major hazard and can occur anywhere."

Motorists should also ensure  vehicle windscreens were cleared of frost before driving, he said.

"People need to take a little bit more time in the morning to scrape all of the frost off the windows and give it a good wash before they start driving.

People driving with obstructed windscreens can be fined, he said.

New Zealand Post confirmed heavy snowfall around the country had caused widespread delays to the delivery of mail.

Delivery is being attempted in Eketahuna and Dannevirke, the only two locations affected in the greater Manawatu region.

However, NZ Post was unsure if any attempts to deliver mail to these locations would be successful.

"We apologise for the inconvenience, but we simply must place the highest priority on protecting the safety of motorists, pedestrians and our own postal staff,'' spokesman Michael Tull said.

Wairarapa fared even worse, with no deliveries made at all to Masterton, Featherston, Greytown, Carterton and Martinborough.

Mail was not the only thing to be disrupted due to the wild weather lashing the country.

Power has been restored to over 4000 Powerco customers, following severe outages last night.

Powerco network operations manager Phil Marsh said that while power had been restored to some consumers, over 1000 properties were still without electricity in Manawatu, Wairarapa and South Taranaki.

"Supply is being progressively restored to customers but there could be further damage to Powerco's electricity network with more snow. The weather has caused road closures in some areas, making it difficult for crews to access parts of the network that need to be repaired."

Bulls was among the areas left without power, as well as Hunterville, Eketahuna, Longbush, Masterton, Manaia, Patea, Kimbolton, Waverley, Waitotara, Kaponga, Rahotu and Makirikiri.

Mr Marsh said Powerco expected to restore supply to the majority of affected customers by the end of the day.

"We have been advised that there is snow falling in parts of the country where it has not been seen for many years and the snow loading is causing trees and branches to sag or break into overhead lines. We will continue to undertake repairs as long as it is safe to do so. Safety is our number one priority and it is likely that if the forecast severe weather deteriorates we will have to call our field staff off the job until it is safe for them to be back out on the roads.

 

- Manawatu Standard

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