Weather drama continues in South Island

SNOW CONES: Porters Pass, on State Highway 73 between Springfield and Arthur's Pass, has been closed by snow.
KIRK HARGREAVES/.THE PRESS.
SNOW CONES: Porters Pass, on State Highway 73 between Springfield and Arthur's Pass, has been closed by snow.

Heavy snow is forecast for parts of the upper South Island tonight, while farther down the island residents are still mopping up after days of torrential rain, and people remain trapped by high water in places.

Nine tourists were stranded by floodwaters on State Highway 1 north of Oamaru, after failing to observe warning signs earlier today.

The young tourists, who were trying to free one of their two SUVs from waist-deep water, were found by army and Civil Defence personnel, a Waitaki District Council spokeswoman said.

They were taken to Oamaru, where they were checked for hypothermia and would stay tonight before returning to Christchurch.

Army Unimogs were delivering donated bread, milk, soup and water to flood-affected residents around Oamaru today.

Forty-nine roads in the Waitaki region remained closed tonight, ahead of forecast heavy snowfalls tomorrow to 600m, and lighter snow expected at lower levels. Showers were also forecast.

Motorists were advised to avoid travel if possible.

After flooding made SH1 impassable around the North Otago town, it is now open to the south of Oamaru but closed to the north between Pukeuri and Hilderthorpe.

Some water supplies in North Otago have been shut down due to flooded intakes, and will be inspected again tomorrow before a decision is made about when they will begin to operate again.

Local schools were expected to open tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Otago river levels were dropping and the flood risk had eased.

The MetService has forecast heavy snow overnight for parts of inland Buller, Nelson and Marlborough down to 400m, and smaller amounts down to 300m. Farmers were advised to move stock to sheltered areas.

Heavy snow was also forecast for inland Canterbury and North Otago above 600m, with snow expected down to 300m.

The main alpine passes were likely to be affected.

Heavy rain could return to eastern Otago and Canterbury tomorrow and Saturday.

The bad weather has also disrupted shearing, with the national wool auction scheduled for June 10 cancelled.

In the North Island heavy rain was possible for Gisborne and northern Hawke's Bay tomorrow and Saturday.

Snow is falling in Arthurs Pass this morning. This photograph was taken by Department of Conservation staff in the village today.
Snow is falling in Arthurs Pass this morning. This photograph was taken by Department of Conservation staff in the village today.

NZPA