Beware, as snow turns to ice

STAFF REPORTERS
Last updated 05:00 09/08/2014

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The sun is expected to come out today but yesterday its absence was felt, with the polar blast shutting schools, knocking out power and causing havoc on roads around the south.

But while temperatures are expected to lift slightly today, authorities are still warning motorists to take care, as snow turns to ice.

The snow, which fell to low levels in several parts of the south yesterday, created havoc on many roads.

Senior Sergeant Craig Brown, of Dunedin, said that between 5.30am and 3.30pm yesterday, 15 vehicle crashes were reported across the district.

While most were minor, there was a "four to five" car pile-up on the Kingston-Garston highway just before noon, he said.

A truck also overturned on State Highway 1 near Clinton after sliding down a hill, while the NZ Transport Agency last night closed State Highway 6 between Five Rivers and Kingston because of black ice.

Southland District Council roading asset management engineer Hartley Hare said southeast Southland was the worst hit, particularly around the Chaslands Highway and Mokoreta areas.

Several schools, including Menzies College, Wyndham Primary, Edendale Primary, Dipton School, Limehills School and Maniototo Area School, were closed and many others had delayed openings as buses struggled on the icy roads.

Lumsden Four Square employee John Omelvena said it had snowed on and off throughout the day, while Mokoreta resident Olivia Wallace said about 8cm had fallen at her farm.

Sentencing of Otago prison escapee Stephen Maddren, 25, was also delayed because of snow in the region.

Maddren escaped from the Otago Corrections Facility in June and spent a week on the run, eventually being found in a hot water cupboard not far from the prison. He will now be sentenced on August 14.

Snow and ice also affected passengers on a Jetstar flight from Queenstown to Auckland who were left waiting in their plane for nearly four hours while it was de-iced at Queenstown airport. Other flights in and out of the resort were also delayed or cancelled.

Cardrona Alpine Resort was shut because of high winds but Treble Cone, the Remarkables and Coronet Peak were open.

Power was disrupted to about 1000 customers across Southland and Otago from Thursday morning until noon yesterday.

PowerNet Technical and Network Performance general manager Keith Burns said 327 incidents were recorded after networks were hit by stormy conditions on Thursday and Friday, resulting in power problems for 1000 customers.

Staff had worked to restore power as quickly as possible but full restoration was subject to weather conditions, he said.

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Mail deliveries were also affected.

A New Zealand Post Service spokeswoman said limited deliveries were made in Queenstown, Wanaka and Invercargill but normal deliveries were expected to resume today, weather permitting.

The chilly blast came at a bad time for southern dairy farmers, who are in the middle of calving.

Southland Federated Farmers president Russell MacPherson said temperatures dropping below zero would be challenging.

"Whilst the snow is blanketing pastures it's the wind chill that is really going to test us. The bitter chill cuts through you and newborn calves won't be able to cope for long in these conditions."

Farmers would be busy feeding out to stock and pushing them to shelter to get them through, he said.

The main focus would be rushing newborn calves to to the calving shed to keep them warm, he said.

Saturday sports in the Gore district have taken a hit from the storm, too, with all sportsgrounds in the district closed for the weekend because of the conditions.

But the news is not all bad.

MetService duty forecaster Philippa Murdoch said the weekend would be mainly fine with a high of about 12C, dropping to about 4C overnight.

Rain would develop late Sunday, and continue through early next week.

Snow was expected to about 400 metres on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday along with a cold southwest change.

She said the southwesterlies would be strong in exposed places.

- The Southland Times

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