Despite heavy snow tonight, the Desert Rd remains open - but only just.
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The snowfalls, combined with ice, had produced treacherous driving conditions throughout the South Island and on the North Island's central plateau. Compounding the snow, strong winds were expected to lash the South Island today.
Acting shift commander Mark Oliver from Police central communications said snow had blanketed the central plateau today and could close the State Highway One route at any moment tonight.
With snow forecast to fall through tonight, police were warning drivers to take extreme caution and monitor AA and NZTA websites for closures.
Snow had fallen to near sea level in some areas, including Fiordland and Southland, and about 200m in Buller and Westland. In Clutha, Southland and Fiordland another 10 to 15cm of snow could fall throughout the day.
Snow was falling above 400m in the western parts of Nelson and in inland Southland above 200m, the MetService said.
A further brief burst of snow had been expected in Buller, with another 10cm accumulating above 400m.
Snow was also forecast above 700m in Taumarunui, Taihape, Whanganui and Manawatu in the central North Island.
In the past 24 hours, Mount Ruapehu's Turoa and Whakapapa ski fields had received a dumping of snow between 30 and 41cm, respectively. Both ski fields were closed today.
Police have advised motorists to take on the roads and to drive to conditions due to the ice, particularly on bridges.
Arthurs and Lewis passes, SH93 from Clinton to Mataura, SH87 from Outram to Kyeburn, SH94 from Te Anau to Milford Sound and SH6 from Kohatu Junction to Blenheim were closed because of the weather.
The Taihape-Napier Road from the Kuripapango Bridge through to Taihape, also known as the Gentle Annie, has been closed due to snow and SH7 near Reefton in Buller was also closed due to fallen power lines and snow.
In Dunedin, a 24-year-old man was in hospital in serious condition with head injuries after his car slipped in black ice and crashed into a pole on Maclaggan St about 3.30am today.
Major detours were in place as parts of SH1 and SH16 were closed.
Police highway patrol senior sergeant Kris Burbery said people needed to be more aware on the roads today.
"Our plea is for people to take care and accept that there is going to be more traffic," he said.
"Be prepared for a change in the weather especially on days like today."
MetService meteorologist Daniel Corbett said the cold southwesterly flow would slowly loosen its grip through the course of the day.
However, there was another surge of strong wind expected, he said.
Gales of up to 120kmh were expected to hammer the Clutha and Dunedin districts from tonight until tomorrow morning.
Central Hawke's Bay and the Tararua District could also experience strong winds at times, particularly this afternoon and early evening.
Winds of that strength had the potential to topple trees, damage powerlines and make driving hazardous.
Corbett said thunderstorms were also likely to hit Taranaki, possibly as far south as Kapiti this afternoon.
There was a thunderstorm watch for Waitomo, Taranaki, Kapiti-Horowhenua, Marlborough, Nelson and Buller.
"It's still going to be windy in places, still some showers as you go towards to Thursday.
"By the time we go to Friday, high pressure is starting to build in from Australia and by Saturday it's finally quiet and a dry, sunny day for many of us," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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