Gusts of up to 163kmh whip through deep south as first Antarctic blast of year grabs hold
Heavy snow is on the way for the south of the country during the next few days, as a cold front accompanied by bitter temperatures sweeps up from the Antarctic.
Accompanying the heavy snow are strong icy gales that have affected several flights.
In Dunedin the wild weather forced a flight to be diverted.
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NZ 675 from Auckland was meant to land at the Momona-based airport at 2.20pm on Friday, but a cross wind at the airport forced it to be diverted to Christchurch, an Air New Zealand spokesman said.
The plane would refuel before returning to Dunedin, he said.
Another Auckland-bound flight was delayed.
The front was due to arrive in the city from 3pm and gusts up to 120kmh could be expected, a MetService spokesman said.
"It is definitely going to snow, the question is how low."
MetService issued a snow and wind warning for the city, as well as Southern Lakes, Central Otago, Southland and Clutha.
Snow is expected to fall to low levels and would be heavy at times through to Saturday morning.
On Saturday morning snow could fall as low as 100m during thunderstorms in Otago and Southland, and could fall to 300m on Banks Peninsula.
"This is the first significant cold outbreak so far this year. Heavy snow can cause disruption to transport, significant stress to livestock, and could damage powerlines," MetService said. Residents could expect up to 20 centimetres of snow to fall above 400 metres, with lesser amounts to near sea level.
Snow warnings were in place for Arthur's, Lewis, Porters and Lindis passes, Milford Rd and State Highway 1 between Dunedin and Waitati from late Friday afternoon or evening. Snow could accumulate above 800 metres on the Desert Rd in the North Island late Saturday morning.
Southwest winds would be strong and bitterly cold for most of the country on Saturday, then start easing on Sunday, MetService said. Once conditions calmed down, frost and ice would become an issue in many areas.
Severe west to southwest gales were forecast for Stewart Island, coastal parts of Southland, Clutha and Dunedin. They were possible in North Otago, northwest Nelson, Banks Peninsula, Wairarapa and southern Hawke's Bay.
Wind strength was thought to peak about 2pm on Friday in Invercargill, where a gust of 113kmh was recorded. On Centre Island in Foveaux Strait a gust hit 163kmh, while wind strength was clocked at 131kmh on another island in the strait, MetService said. On Mt Taranaki gusts were getting up to 90kmh.
Large south to southwest waves were expected along many coastlines, although eastern Northland, Auckland and Bay of Plenty should be sheltered.
"A very long fetch of southwest winds is generating a large and powerful swell. This swell is expected to peak on the western coasts on Friday and on the east coast on Saturday," MetService said.
"This swell gets up to average around the six-metre mark, though maximum waves could be up to twice this height. It also has a long period of around 15 seconds and this means the swell is very powerful."
On Friday morning Timaru was the country's coldest spot at 0.2C at 5.30am.
Temperatures were forecast to drop over much of the country during the next few days. MetService predicted Hamilton to get down to zero overnight Saturday, -2C overnight Sunday and -1C overnight Monday.
Christchurch was forecast to get to -1C overnight Friday, and -2C overnight Sunday.
Cold southwesterlies were expected to ease on Sunday as a ridge of high pressure moved onto New Zealand from the Tasman Sea.