Snow in the south as wintry blast hits

Last updated 20:33 26/05/2014

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After a day of snow, the deep south can expect icy temperatures and frosts - but the white stuff could be back later in the week, MetService says. 


Have you been affected by the wild weather? Send your newstips, photos and video to newstips@stuff.co.nz


Snow flurries in the south were expected to ease this evening, making way for a clear, cold day tomorrow, MetService meteorologist Elke Louw said.

In the north, there was still the possibility of some light snow showers today, with 1-2cm expected to settle on higher parts of the Desert Road. 

Tomorrow the country could expect to wake up to one of the coldest days of the year so far, with severe frosts expected in inland regions of the South Island, as well as the North Island's central plateau.

"We do urge people to take care with driving on the roads tomorrow," Louw said.

In Central Otago, Cromwell would experience a minimum -12C, Alexandra -10C, and Queenstown -9C.

Even Auckland would not escape Jack Frost's chilly fingers, with a forecast minimum of 2C - which only happens on average four times a year, Louw said.

Heading into Wednesday, another system was on its way with more cold air behind it, which was something to keep an eye on, she said.

"We are looking at snow once again for southern parts of the South Island down to quite low levels."

Road and power problems remain in some areas.

About 2000 properties in Tararua and Wairarapa were without power tonight, after three days of severe weather, electricity company Powerco said.

The outages were mainly caused by trees falling on power lines. 

"We expect to get the majority of customers back on by the end of the day barring further severe weather and will also look to get generators out to customers in some of the remote areas where repairs are likely to take several days," Powerco said in a statement.

And in Central Otago and Dunedin, abut 160 customers of Aurora Energy finally had their power restored by this evening after storm damage disrupted supplies.

DRIVE WTIH CARE

Police were warning drivers to keep a close eye on road conditions, with the predicted frosts and snow.

This evening, snow was falling on the Rimutaka Hill Rd, Wairarapa, New Zealand Transport Agency spokesman Anthony Frith said.

While it was not heavy enough to close the roads, motorists were being warned to take extreme care or make alternative arrangements, he said.

He also advised drivers across the region to check the NZTA's website for the latest road conditions before setting off.

In Canterbury, Senior Sergeant Phil Newton of Canterbury Highway Patrol also warned drivers to adapt to the wintery conditions.

"That's going to make many roads across the district treacherous, and will dramatically increase the risks of drivers having a crash - especially if they have a lapse in concentration," he said.

Drivers on the mountain passes should carry chains.

Arthur's Pass would remain open overnight though it would be down to one line and speeds limited to 30kmh.

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BLANKET OF SNOW

Snow fell to low levels in Dunedin overnight, closing schools, suspending bus services, and forcing Dunedin Hospital to set up an emergency operation centre as staff and patients struggled to make it into town.

In Christchurch, snow flurries fell on the Port Hills and in Rolleston as the city shivered under 5 degrees Celsius temperatures reported by the MetService as "feeling like -1C".

Snow may also fall on Banks Peninsula above 400 metres, where wind gusts could exceed 130kmh, MetService said.

Parts of Canterbury could experience severe frosts and "double-digit negatives" tonight.

In the lower North Island, powerlines were downed and roofing iron lifted as gusts hit 148kmh. More than 4000 properties in Wellington, Wairarapa and Tararua had suffered power cuts over the weekend.

Power had been restored to most affected homes in the capital this morning, Wellington Electricity said.

In Central Otago, the Queenstown Lakes District Council said snowfalls had been widespread. Contractors were working to clear main roads but chains were essential in most places.

Seven scheduled flights in and out of Queenstown Airport were cancelled through to early afternoon.

Snow closed several main routes in the South Island including State Highway 1 between Dunedin to Waitati.

» See a list of closed roads/roads with chains required here.

Mt Hutt Ski Area manager James McKenzie said the field had received about 5 centimetres of snow and would probably get more.

NZSki said 50cm of snow had fallen at The Remarkables.

"Winter has arrived at The Remarkables with snow covering the entire ski area and more. It is snowing right down through Queenstown," it said

Heavy machinery was working to clear snow from the bottom of the access road to the ski base area, and people were told not to try to get to the ski area.

- Fairfax Media

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