Spring snow falls on Queenstown

Lindis Pass may get a light dusting of Spring snow.
KIRK HARGREAVES/FAIRFAX NZ

Lindis Pass may get a light dusting of Spring snow.

Summer begins next week, but it resembled the depths of winter in one part of the country on Sunday morning.

Queenstown woke up to thick snow blanketing the Crown Range, after an unexpected snowfall down to 600 metres overnight.

Photos and video show snow falling thick and fast high on the Crown Range road, causing perilous driving conditions.

It caps off an unusual spell of weather in the area.

It was 23 degrees as recently as Friday, and heavy rain in recent weeks had raised the level of Lake Wakatipu, which was threatening to flood on Saturday.

It was not unprecedented for it to snow so close to Christmas, but it was unusual.

"It's not something that happens every year but it's not unheard of," said MetService duty forecaster Claire Flynn.

The snow had since stopped with the temperature reaching 11 degrees. 

Snow also fell heavily on Milford Road earlier on Sunday, briefly causing it to close.

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MetService had also warned of possible snow on Arthur's Pass and Lindis Pass throughout the day.

There was no warning for Lewis Pass, which has become the main road linking the northern South Island to Christchurch in the wake of the earthquakes.

It was possible that 1 to 2cms of snow would accumulate on Arthur's Pass and Lindis Pass, due to snow showers. They would likely subside before Sunday evening.

Heavy rain warnings had been lifted for the Westland Ranges and the headwaters of Canterbury lakes and rivers.

A rain warning remained for the Buller Ranges.

Gales may become severe from midday Sunday near Clutha and coastal Southland, including Stewart Island.

MetService says winds of this strength could damage trees and powerlines, and make driving hazardous.

 - Stuff

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