Snow shuts Desert Rd

A bitterly cold snap has sent temperatures plunging in the south, with snow in Dunedin, and the Desert Road shut.

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The stretch of State Highway 1 in the middle of the North Island was shut about 9pm, and will remain closed until further notice, the New Zealand Transport Agency said.

Up to 25cm was expected to fall there tonight and tomorrow morning.

The day started with Dunedin getting a dusting on and off from about 8am, though flurries were not settling.

The miserable weather prompted A-league football side Sydney FC to cancel a planned practice at Forrester Park, north of the city.

Snowfalls appears to be limited to the Dunedin hills. A Southland farmer said he had "more rain than snow at this stage", but said that could change later on.

Cardrona skifield was benefiting from the conditions - it was covered in fresh snow after receiving a 5cm drop last night and more snow showers today.

There had been one weather-related crash, police said.

A Dunedin police spokesman said the weather was starting to take a turn for the worse, but it hadn't otherwise made much of an impact on traffic just yet.

NZTA had issued ice warnings for the Dunedin - Waitati highway, and had increased their earlier ice warning on State Highway 8 from Fairlie to Cromwell. 

MetService duty forecaster John Law said a strong, cold, south to southwest flow was spreading its way across the country, dragging brisk winds and low temperatures with it.

Law said it wasn't a huge band moving up the country, so snow will take the form of scattered flurries across primarily coastal areas in the lower South Island throughout today, affecting areas further north tomorrow.

Southland, Otago, and Fiordland will get the brunt of it, as scattered snow showers are expected at 200 to 300 metres throughout the day.

Brisk southerly winds will see temperatures plunge, and will likely affect roads and potentially create travel disruptions.

Banks Peninsula could expect blizzard-like conditions this evening, with strong winds and snowfall from 200 to 300 metres.

Wind-chill temperatures may reach sub-zero in areas on the eastern coast.

The rain is likely to persist to tomorrow morning, with a possibly of sleety showers for Christchurch city.


MetService has issued a heavy snow warning for Wellington, with a possibility snow will accumulate to warning levels about the hills of Wellington, south of Wairarapa, inland Whanganui, and in Taihape.

It said "heavy snow in these regions is likely to cause major disruption to traffic and make driving conditions hazardous, especially about higher mountain roads and passes."

MetService also advised farmers their stock may need to be sheltered.

Up to 20cm of snow could accumulate above 400 metres between 6pm tonight and noon tomorrow.

Wellington's Rimutaka Hill Road was expected to get up to 18cm of snow today and tomorrow and may be forced to close.

MetService issued a road snowfall warning for the road, between Wellington and the Wairarapa, as snow was expected to fall to 300m above sea level around Wellington later today.

Up to 10cm of snow was expected on the summit of the State Highway 2 road today and tonight, with up to 8cm more tomorrow morning.

NZTA spokesman Anthony Frith said crews would be monitoring the road and may close it.

If it remained open people should take extra care, Frith said.

NZTA's website would be updated if there were closures.

In Wellington the day's high was 8degC and the low was 4C, with strong southerly winds.

Tomorrow, when snow was expected as low as 300m, there would be strong, cold southerlies. Tomorrow's high was expected to reach 9C and the low was 5.