South Island roads closed after snow

Freezing weather moving across the country looks set to continue causing major disruption on South Island roads today.


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In Otago, State Highway 8 between Omarama and Tarras, and between Alexandra and Roxburgh, and SH6 between Haast and Makarora were closed due to snow, while in Canterbury, snow had closed State Highway 80 near Mt Cook. Further north, SH65 from SH6 to Springs Junction was also closed.

Also closed due to snow were SH85 from Omakau to Alexandra, SH6 from Cromwell to Queenstown, and the Lindis Pass.

The MetService said that snow showers are expected on Arthurs and Porters passes this morning above about 700 metres with around 1.5cm expected over the next day.

Between three and five centimetres of snow are forecast above 500 metres between Lake Gunn and the Homer Tunnel on Milford Rd during the day.

State Highway 94 had two warnings in place since yesterday morning - between Mossburn and Te Anau as a result of ice on the road, and between Te Anau and Milford due to snow, the Automobile Association said.

A snow warning was also in place on Crown Range between Wanaka and Arrow Junction since midday yesterday.

Snow warnings were also in place last night on SH73 between Springfield and Arthur's Pass and between Arthur's Pass and Otira.

The Kawarau Gorge (SH6) between Queenstown and Cromwell had been closed temporarily but re-opened early this morning.

A Queenstown police spokeswoman said it was the first time in years she had heard of snow forcing the closure of the Kawarau Gorge.

Motorists were reported to have become stuck in heavy snow in some areas and police were urging others to be aware of closures and warnings.

The MetService warned of snowfall on a number of Canterbury and Otago roads.

The MetService said two to three centimetres of snow could fall to 800 metres on Lewis Pass, and five to eight centimetres on Arthur's Pass down to 700 metres, between midnight and 6am this morning.

On Porters Pass, snow was expected tonight with three to five centimetres expected down to 700 metres and light snow to 400 metres in the 12 hours from 2am before easing this afternoon.

At Lindis Pass, up to eight centimetres of snow had been expected to fall down to 400 metres in the 15 hours from midnight, easing this afternoon.

In the North Island the Desert Road is closed, with conditions set to remain treacherous with snow showers forecast to turn to rain this morning before clearing by about midday.


Meanwhile, the treacherous road conditions have led to the closure of several schools in Central Otago today.

Three schools in the Cromwell township and others in Alexandra and Omakau were closed on what is the last day of the term.

A Cromwell College teacher said it snowed in the town yesterday afternoon, and while it had since stopped, freezing temperatures had left roads iced over and treacherous.

She said it was the first time in about three years that schools had closed for a full day.

Police were urging drivers in the region to be aware of closures and warnings or stay off the roads altogether if possible.

- NZPA, with