Wintry weather moves north

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 08:59 05/09/2013

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The icy southerly that brought snow, sleet and hail to many parts of New Zealand is expected to retreat to the top of the North Island today, while a ridge builds over the south.

A polar blast tore up the country yesterday and overnight, and MetService forecasters said a reprieve coming over the next couple of days would be short-lived.

"It's pretty good now over the South Island, and not so much over the North Island today, but we've got a weak ridge over the south, which should be across both islands by tomorrow," duty forecaster Richard Finnie said.

"It's improving in a lot of places, but there will still be some heavy rain and showers in and around the Coromandel and Gisborne areas."

But Finnie said the ridge would not last long.

"It's only a narrow ridge, it's not going to bring about a long period of settled weather, and will give way to some fairly strong westerlies early next week," he said.

Yesterday, heavy snow warnings were in place for parts of Otago, Canterbury and Marlborough in the south, and the Rimutaka ranges north of Wellington.

WINDY WELLINGTON

Winds gusted to 150kmh as the blast tore through Wellington early this morning.

The highest gusts recorded were 150kmh in Cook Strait and on Mt Kaukau, which is above Wellington, MetService spokesman Micky Malivuk said.

Closer to Wellington city, gusts of 110kmh were recorded at Kelburn and 100kmh at Wellington Airport.

Winds peaked between 2am and 3am. Snow was thought to be falling on the Rimutaka Hill Rd, between Hutt Valley and Wairarapa, this morning.

Fire Service shift manager Jan Wills said fire fighters were called to a window pane that blew out on the corner of Bond and Victoria strees in central Wellington at 10.30pm yesterday.

Overnight there was also a trampoline blown away in Titahi Bay, a tree down on Johnsonville, and a roof lifting in Island Bay.

A police spokesman said there were few weather-related problems overnight though waves were crashing over the train lines and motorway into Wellington during the storm's peak.

A large branch and power line had blown across the Paekakariki Hill Rd - the inland route between Pauatahanui and the Kapiti Coast - about 5.20am.

The road was thought to remain closed this morning though contractors were on their way to clear it.

Wellington Harbour's East by West Ferry has reduced sailings this morning, only leaving Days Bay for the central city at 6.50am, 7.45am, and 8.35am.

Street lights were out overnight in some areas, including Petone and Ngaio.

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SNOW WARNING

MetService has issued snowfall warnings across the length of the country, with a few snow showers expected above 800 metres on the Desert Road until midday.

Snow flurries were also expected on the Rimutaka Hill Rd until midday, but it was not expected to accumulate on the road.

Snowfall saw more than 300 skiers get trapped on Mt Hutt overnight, but the road was cleared and all were able to leave by about 2am.

Mt Hutt Ski area manager James McKenzie said everyone had gone by about 3.30am.

The mountain would remain closed today, he said because while the weather was clearing, staff needed a day to rest after last night.

A number of roads across the South Island remained closed today.

State Highway 94 from Te Anau to Milford Sound is still closed, and the NZ Transport Agency was advising caution for motorists using SH8 between Twizel and Fairlie.

Vehicle restrictions were in force along SH73 from Arthur's Pass to Otira, and also between Springfield and Arthur's Pass, with NZTA recommending chains be used on any of those routes.

A warning was in place for SH1 between Blenheim and Kaikoura, with high winds expected.

- Stuff

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