Rain and wind hit, snow later

RAINY DAY: Rain covers most of the North Island in this 12.20pm rain radar image from MetService.
RAINY DAY: Rain covers most of the North Island in this 12.20pm rain radar image from MetService.

Winter is well and truly here with heavy rain and gales hitting parts of the country, and a dump of snow on the way.

Heavy rain has hit Hamilton today, beginning mid-morning, and was expected in Auckland, Northland and Tauranga by this afternoon.

A severe weather watch for northerly gales had been issued for Wellington today while Cook Strait had a storm warning in place.

A front moving across the country today was expected to bring northerly gales to Taranaki, Marlborough and Wellington this morning and afternoon, MetService said.

They could become severe, with gusts up to 100kmh and periods of rain expected in Wellington.

The Cook Strait storm warning was for northerly winds rising to more than 90kmh late this morning and for high seas.

The West Coast was first to be hit by a front overnight, with Westport receiving 35mm of rain between midnight and 6am, MetService said.

That rain had been predicted to continue to hit Westland today, as well as stretching into Taranaki, the agency said.

Severe weather warnings were in place for those areas and Taranaki could receive 80 to 100mm of rain in the nine hours to 3pm.

People, especially trampers, were advised that rivers and streams could rise rapidly and slips were possible in vulnerable areas, MetService said.

The front was forecast to move across New Zealand throughout the day and be preceded by a strong to gale northerly wind.

The severe weather watch was also in place for Otago, Canterbury, Nelson, and Bay of Plenty.

Heavy rain could fall the Westland Ranges, the Canterbury Headwaters, the Nelson ranges through Monday and about the eastern Bay of Plenty Ranges from Monday evening until early Tuesday morning.

Nelson could also expect a dousing of rain this morning but that may clear around the afternoon.

Northerly gales were forecast for exposed parts of Fiordland, the Otago Lakes, Westland, Buller and the Canterbury High Country overnight tonight and into the morning.

Skifield operators will be salivating over the long range forecast.Heavy snow was expected to fall from Wednesday to Friday, down to 300 metres in Southland and Queenstown, 400m through the South Alps, Canterbury and Otago, and 700m on the Central Plateau around Mt Ruapehu.

This will be welcome news to those wanting to take to the snow, as a warmer than normal winter so far had made for small snow bases and delayed the opening of some skifields.