Severe weather watch for Manawatu

A severe weather watch has been issued for much of the lower North Island, and the Desert Road and alpine passes in the South Island are likely to get snow. 

MetService predicts a cold snap will hit the lower North Island from tomorrow, with strong winds and long periods of rain forecast. 

Metservice issued a weather watch for southeast winds that may rise to gale in southern Manawatu and the Kapiti Coast on Wednesday afternoon, which should slowly ease on Thursday. 

Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa and Wellington are likely to have long periods of rain during the next few days, which MetService has issued a severe weather watch for. 

Wellington this morning woke to one of the coldest days of the year so far.

MetService forecaster Dan Corbett said rain was expected in Wellington later today, turning to snow and sleet overnight on the Rimutaka Hill, where up to six centimetres of snow could accumulate.

A low with strong winds and rain was today heading for the lower North Island and would stick around till about Friday ''like a piece of chewing gum stuck to your shoe''.

The weekend's forecast was slightly better, but rain was still expected.

NZTA operations manager Mark Owen said a close eye would be kept on how much snow settled on the Rimutaka Hill Rd tonight before deciding whether to close it to motorists.

"We want to avoid inconvenience for motorists but safety will remain our top priority."

Snow is expected on the Desert Road from late this evening, with between five to 10 centimetres predicted to settle on the road above 900 metres.

Snow is also set to fall on the alpine passes, and a snow warning has been issued for the Lewis, Arthur's, Lindis and Porters passes, with snow expected down to 500 metres.

Between three and six centimetres is expected to fall on the passes, with up to 8cm set to fall on Porters Pass until noon tomorrow.

Rain and freezing temperatures are predicted for Christchurch. 

Corbett said the snow level had dropped significantly over the past couple of days, but the weather system moving up the South Island was nothing compared with last month's snowstorm.

"People will see some extra snow on the alps over the next couple of days, but it's just not quite cold enough for snow to city level," he said.

Residents could expect more below-freezing mornings, like today's -4 degrees Celsius start, and showers over the next couple of days.

It would be wet tomorrow, but rain would ease to showers, followed by more showers on Thursday and Friday.

A band of rain had settled over the West Coast, bringing thunderstorms.

"There won't be a lot of snow, to be honest, but it's enough to be aware of when driving through the passes," Corbett said.

"There will be some fresh powder on the skifields."

The dreary weather was expected to make way for a ''lovely winter's weekend".

"So that's one thing to look forward to," he said.

Fairfax Media