Snow falls in south

CHE BAKER AND SIOBHAN DOWNES
Last updated 07:18 12/08/2014

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Snow, hail, and sleet is disrupting travel on South Island highways for the second time in a week.

A cold southwest flow brought more wintry weather to the south overnight, with more sleety showers expected in Southland, Otago and Fiordland today.

State Highway 94 Milford Sound to Te Anau would remain closed today at Hollyford and Chasm for snow clearing and avalanche control work, the New Zealand Transport Agency said.


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Several other roads round Lewis Pass, Arthur's Pass, Tekapo and the central lakes were restricted to drivers with chains only.

MetService severe weather forecaster Leigh Matheson said the Milford Tunnel had about 15 centimetres of snow overnight.

It was still snowing about Porters, Arthur's and Lewis passes, but these should be clearing this morning, she said.

As the front passed the North Island, the Desert Road could expect a drop in temperatures later this morning, and light snow flurries later today.

"It's unlikely they'll get large amounts accumulating on the road, maybe a centimetre about the summit," Matheson said.

New Zealand Transport Agency Otago Southland journey manager Graeme Hall said Southland was expected to be the hardest hit area but plans were in place to manage what the weather "throws at us the best we can".

He urged motorists to drive to the conditions, carry chains, expect delays and limit travel if it was not necessary. Drivers also needed to take precautions in case they needed to stop and be able to keep warm in their cars.

The cold south-westerly would bring heavy showers with hail, sleet and snow down to 100 metres in other areas.

"It's more likely snow showers will be around Southland and Clutha with just a sprinkling for Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago," MetService forecaster Liz Walsh said.

"It's going to be cold."

Federated Farmers Southland president Russell MacPherson said farmers would be disappointed with the snow forecast after a tough couple of weeks of wet and muddy conditions.

"It's been very, very wet. We've had a lot of rain," MacPherson said.

"People are getting a bit sick of it . . . The cows and sheep are probably getting sick of it, too," he said.

However, farmers would take it in their stride and sheep farmers would be thankful they were not lambing yet, he said.

The dismal weather was likely to remain until Friday in Southland but could clear up in the Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago districts.

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With wintry showers expected for ski fields, managers were preparing for prime snow conditions.

Cardrona Alpine Resort sales and marketing manager Nadia Ellis said "the temperatures have been really cold which means we have some fantastic mid-winter conditions.

Yesterday the resort recorded 25cm of snow fall since Sunday night.

"The flakes that fell today were huge so there is plenty of soft fresh snow to enjoy when the weather clears. We expect an influx of eager skiers and snowboarders," she said.

Heavy snow and rain fell in Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes yesterday morning and the Crown Range was closed after several motorists became stuck in snow. The road was open about 10.15am.

State Highway 94 between Milford Sound and Te Anau was also closed because of snow and a rising avalanche hazard. 

- The Southland Times

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