Roads re-open after big freeze

WHITE-OUT: Sugarloaf stands out clearly from the snow coating Christchurch's Port Hills.
WHITE-OUT: Sugarloaf stands out clearly from the snow coating Christchurch's Port Hills.
HISTORIC SCENE: The Sign of the Kiwi sits atop Cashmere Hill surrounded by snow.
HISTORIC SCENE: The Sign of the Kiwi sits atop Cashmere Hill surrounded by snow.
CAREFULLY DOES IT: Michael Heinzel and his children, Rosalie and Ferdinand Defregger use ski poles to walk to school through the snow on Centaurus Road.
CAREFULLY DOES IT: Michael Heinzel and his children, Rosalie and Ferdinand Defregger use ski poles to walk to school through the snow on Centaurus Road.
SNOW AND ROADWORKS: Christchurch ... so pretty and yet so not.
SNOW AND ROADWORKS: Christchurch ... so pretty and yet so not.
CAREFUL COMMUTE: Dyers Pass Rd has reopened this morning after being closed overnight.
CAREFUL COMMUTE: Dyers Pass Rd has reopened this morning after being closed overnight.
THE SAFE OPTION: Rapaki resident Melaina Targett walks down the hill.
THE SAFE OPTION: Rapaki resident Melaina Targett walks down the hill.
SHOVELLING: Rapaki Rd resident Shaun Campbell clears his driveway on Wednesday morning.
SHOVELLING: Rapaki Rd resident Shaun Campbell clears his driveway on Wednesday morning.
OMINOUS: Storm clouds gather over Christchurch on Tuesday.
OMINOUS: Storm clouds gather over Christchurch on Tuesday.
SUGARLOAF: Skies clear briefly yesterday afternoon to show the snow dusting across the Port Hills.
SUGARLOAF: Skies clear briefly yesterday afternoon to show the snow dusting across the Port Hills.
DRIVING HARD: Runners battle the elements at Halswell Quarry during yesterday's secondary school cross country championships.
DRIVING HARD: Runners battle the elements at Halswell Quarry during yesterday's secondary school cross country championships.
CROSS-COUNTRY CHAMPION: Senior boys winner Ben Musson, of Papanui, pictured at the rear, with Matt Dryden, of Catholic Cathedral, in front.
CROSS-COUNTRY CHAMPION: Senior boys winner Ben Musson, of Papanui, pictured at the rear, with Matt Dryden, of Catholic Cathedral, in front.
SHIVERING: Boys' High pupils shiver at the annual Christ's College vs Christchurch Boys' High School rugby game at Rugby Park yesterday.
SHIVERING: Boys' High pupils shiver at the annual Christ's College vs Christchurch Boys' High School rugby game at Rugby Park yesterday.
GROOMING: About 15 centimetres of new snow fell at Mt Hutt skifield on Monday night.
GROOMING: About 15 centimetres of new snow fell at Mt Hutt skifield on Monday night.
SNOW MAKING: Machines were in action at Mt Hutt skifield yesterday with temperatures sitting at -8 degrees Celsius.
SNOW MAKING: Machines were in action at Mt Hutt skifield yesterday with temperatures sitting at -8 degrees Celsius.
PRETTY AS A PICTURE: Port Hills dusted with snow yesterday morning.
PRETTY AS A PICTURE: Port Hills dusted with snow yesterday morning.
COVERED: Snow in Little Akaloa Rd on Tuesday.
COVERED: Snow in Little Akaloa Rd on Tuesday.
WHITE OUT: Snow on the Canterbury foothills on Tuesday, as seen from Press House in Gloucester St.
WHITE OUT: Snow on the Canterbury foothills on Tuesday, as seen from Press House in Gloucester St.

Major North Island highways have re-opened following a cold snap which saw snow and ice halt traffic.

Treacherous road conditions on the North Island's Central Plateau had caused major traffic disruption after the Desert Road and surrounding highways were closed.

The closures meant traffic between Wellington and Auckland would have needed to take lengthy detours on lower-lying routes.

The road through Waiouru on the evening of May 28.
The road through Waiouru on the evening of May 28.
Pyper, 7, and Lucas, 5, make the most of the cold snap to build a snowman at Brockville Park.
Pyper, 7, and Lucas, 5, make the most of the cold snap to build a snowman at Brockville Park.
Linda Brasell looks out of her bedroom window to where her roof landed in Waikato.
Linda Brasell looks out of her bedroom window to where her roof landed in Waikato.
Snow dusted Gladstone in the Wairarapa making drivers cautious on Admiral Road.
Snow dusted Gladstone in the Wairarapa making drivers cautious on Admiral Road.
Grace Hepburn makes the most of the snow on Dunedin's streets.
Grace Hepburn makes the most of the snow on Dunedin's streets.
This giant Norfolk Pine at Mission Bay was struck by lightning about 8.30am. Debris litters the area and the tree will be cut down.
This giant Norfolk Pine at Mission Bay was struck by lightning about 8.30am. Debris litters the area and the tree will be cut down.
The Rimutaka Hill Rd, north of Wellington, was closed by snow.
The Rimutaka Hill Rd, north of Wellington, was closed by snow.
Residents in Dunedin will need a few extra layers in the wake of the snow.
Residents in Dunedin will need a few extra layers in the wake of the snow.
Young Joshua gets an early-morning taste of winter.
Young Joshua gets an early-morning taste of winter.
Snow settles around State Highway 88, between Port Chalmers and Dunedin.
Snow settles around State Highway 88, between Port Chalmers and Dunedin.
More snow falls on Signal Hill in Dunedin.
More snow falls on Signal Hill in Dunedin.
A frigid Broomlea St in Wakari, Dunedin.
A frigid Broomlea St in Wakari, Dunedin.
Snow falls in Caversham, Dunedin.
Snow falls in Caversham, Dunedin.
A snowy Sommerville St in Dunedin.
A snowy Sommerville St in Dunedin.
Snow falls in Queenstown.
Snow falls in Queenstown.
Snow falls heavily in Kaitoke, Upper Hutt.
Snow falls heavily in Kaitoke, Upper Hutt.
A snow-covered Dunedin as seen from Lianne Atkinson's student flat at 7.30am and 8.05am.
A snow-covered Dunedin as seen from Lianne Atkinson's student flat at 7.30am and 8.05am.
Dark clouds hang over Dunedin after the overnight snow flurry.
Dark clouds hang over Dunedin after the overnight snow flurry.
The view from Dunedin's Saddle Hill.
The view from Dunedin's Saddle Hill.
Another chilly view in Dunedin.
Another chilly view in Dunedin.
A frigid Broomlea St in Wakari, Dunedin.
A frigid Broomlea St in Wakari, Dunedin.

However the roads re-opened by midday, the NZTA said.

Around 30 cars and trucks had been waiting at Rangipo snow gate on State Highway One to travel south along the Desert Road.

Many had been waiting since dawn to travel but icy road conditions had caused road authorities to close the road until the weather improved.

NZTA area manager Alan Birkett said no vehicles had been trapped overnight.

State Highway 47 and 41 near Tokaanu were both closed to traffic wanting to travel to National Park and Taumarunui.

Earlier, contractors had to try to clear SH4 after two trucks collided near Raurimu, north of National Park Village.

Among those waiting at Rangipo were three van loads of families and supporters from Ruatoria who had been on the road for 12 hours after leaving the East Coast last night.

They planned to be at the 'march out' at Waiouru Military Camp this morning.

Gina Chaffey-Aupouri said the groups left Ruatoria at 5pm on Tuesday night, and were delayed when one van lost a wheel.

The group arrived at Rangipo at 7.30am this morning.    

Further south Wellington's Rimutaka Hill road had reopened around 8am, Owen told Radio New Zealand.

In the South Island, the worst was "well and truly over", NZTA Otago-Southland state highways operations manager Roger Bailey said.

"Generally all our highways are clear, we've only got the Milford Road between the Homer Tunnel and Milford Sound closed at this stage."

"There are still shady bits and there's still pockets of snow and ice lying around on the roads, and we do have one or two restricted areas where trucks can't tow trailers and so on."

MetService said sleet and snow continued to fall around the Central Plateau this morning, but there would be an improving trend today.

Some light snow showers were still expected around the southern Wairarapa north to National Park, forecaster Leigh Matheson said.

"But as the morning progresses we should actually see those showers ease off and temperatures slowly rise. So, I think it's a general improving trend," she told Radio New Zealand.

The South Island was in the clear, Matheson said."Any sleet that's seen this morning around the hills will just turn into showers as the day progresses."

Most coastal areas should warm up, but sheltered inland areas would be frosty tonight.

"Parts of central North Island and inland parts of South Island could get quite severe frosts tonight."

MetService meteorologist Dan Corbett said snow fell to about 300m above sea level around Wellington last night.

The Rimutaka Hill, which was getting wind gusts up to 85kmh this morning, was 1degC at 7.30am.

Between midnight and 6am southerly winds averaged between 98kmh and 120kmh in Wellington.

''It's very gusty but it looks like the strongest winds are going to start easing back.''

Compounding traffic issues, State Highway 4 near Raurimu was blocked this morning by a two-truck crash.
Police said the crash happened about 3am about 500m south of Raurimu.

The two trucks got locked together side by side in the crash and could not be moved.

The road was closed to all traffic.

Heavy recovery equipment from Taupo was expected to clear the damaged trucks.

Inspector Ken Climo, of police central communications, confirmed the road closures meant the only open highways that now linked Wellington with the upper North Island were via Taranaki or Hawke's Bay - both lengthy detours.

In Christchurch a small earthquake woke some residents this morning as snow blanketed homes and streets across the city and Port Hills.

The magnitude-3.5 quake struck shortly before 7am, at 8km deep, and was centred just east of the central city, according to early Geonet reports.

The morning was clear but cold, with MetService saying cold southwesterlies would die out.

Overnight blizzard-like conditions left several Banks Peninsula roads closed and others restricted to 4WDs.

WARMER TEMPERATURES RETURNING

MetService said there would be an improving trend in the weather today.

Some light snow showers were still expected around the southern Wairarapa north to National Park, forecaster Leigh Matheson said.

"But as the morning progresses we should actually see those showers ease off and temperatures slowly rise. So, I think it's a general improving trend," she told Radio New Zealand.

"Any sleet that's seen this morning around the hills will just turn into showers as the day progresses."

The South Island was in the clear, Matheson said.

Most coastal areas should warm up, but sheltered inland areas would be frosty tonight.

"Parts of central North Island and inland parts of South Island could get quite severe frosts tonight."

Stuff