Motorists freed after being stuck on Desert Road - closed by wintry blast
Motorists are now freed after being stuck in snow on a closed Desert Road, as travellers around the country are disrupted by the first Antarctic blast of the year.
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Some made their way out of the Desert Road, in central North Island, by themselves while others needed the assistance of snow ploughs and contractors sent to help stuck motorists.
New Zealand Transport Agency's website shows State Highway 1 closed from Taihape to Rangipo, along with State Highway 49 and State Highway 4 north of National Park to Horoptio..
Police are are advising motorists to travel through either Napier or New Plymouth
Flights in and out of Queenstown Airport were delayed and cancelled on Saturday morning due to snow on the runway, before resuming about 11.30am. State Highway 87 from Sutton to Outram remains closed, with snow warnings in place on other roads across the region.
Mt Ruapehu had a blast of snow late on Saturday morning, with "a few flakes" falling on Rimutaka Summit, as the cold front continued north towards Bay of Plenty in the afternoon, MetService meteorologist Tom Adams said.
"There's still a few showers in behind the main front, but the chance of any snow is pretty small. If you haven't got any snow already, you're not going to get any."
Adams said there could be frosts as far north as Northland on Sunday night, "which is quite unusual".
MetService had earlier warned of two to four centimetres of snow on the Desert Road before 1pm, followed by another period of possible snow showers between 4 and 7pm.
While Queenstown woke to 1C on Saturday morning, the coldest part of the country was a spot known as Swampy Summit in the hills of Otago, with -3C.
Dunedinites in some hill suburbs also woke to a light dusting of snow, following a storm overnight, before snow began to fall heavily at 8am, while about 7.5cm of snow had fallen at Mid Dome in Southland.
Heavy snow was expected until midday Saturday above 400 metres in southern Otago and the Southland hills.
MetService warned the snow could cause disruption to transport, significant stress to livestock, and could damage power lines.
However, about 9am, MetService meteorologist Tom Adams said the worst was over for the South Island, as the front that brought the snow headed north.
Earlier, meteorologist Brian Mercer said it was "the first proper cold outbreak of the winter".
"A lot of the ski fields would have had some significant falls, that will start to give them a base for their season."
The rest of the North Island was in for a "very, very showery" day, while a period of rain would move up the East Coast throughout the day.
"Everywhere's going to get a few showers, certainly up till the afternoon, and then a few places will start to clear this evening."
The weather would ease on Sunday before a mostly fine day across the country, with "nice blue skies, but still quite chilly", though showers could linger about East Cape, Gisborne and coastal Wairarapa on Sunday.
Clear skies on Sunday and Monday morning would likely bring frosts, and could make roads icy on Monday morning.
"People should be keeping an eye out for that on their way into work," Mercer said.