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Snow bomb hits the south

STAFF REPORTERS
Last updated 05:00 03/07/2014
Mararoa School at The Key was one of the schools shut by the weather.
BARRY HARCOURT/Fairfax NZ

SCHOOL'S OUT: Mararoa School at The Key was one of the schools shut by the weather.

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Emergency services have been called to five vehicle crashes in the Balclutha area this morning because of black ice on the roads.

A fire communications spokesman said no one was trapped or seriously injured, and police said no ambulances were required.

Schools and playcentres in the area will not open until 10am.

Yesterday's snow bomb hit the south, shutting some roads and leaving skifield operators rejoicing as the white gold hit the mountains.

Snow fell to about 200 metres in Fiordland and in some areas of Southland and Otago.

In Te Anau, roads and schools were closed and residents stayed indoors.

Te Anau Sandfly cafe owner Carolyn Fox said the snow started about 6.30am and underlying frost made the roads slippery.

The town was quiet because there were not many cars on the roads and all the schools were closed, she said.

By late afternoon some snow had cleared and roads were reopened but temperatures remained low, at 3 degrees Celsius.

Alan McLeod of Manapouri said about 5cm of snow fell in the area, right down to the lake.

Drivers were being cautious and his friend had decided not to take the risk of driving to Te Anau for work.

MetService meteorologist John Law said snow showers were likely to continue until this morning and the conditions would persist for the rest of the week and into the weekend.

Cold south-westerlies, sleety showers and hail would keep temperatures low.

"The next few days will be stuck in the same cold pattern but we could see hail in some places by Friday ... expect a cold, wet weekend," he said.

A traffic warning issued by the NZ Transport Agency last night said those travelling from Te Anau to Milford Sound or Mossburn must carry chains and not tow any vehicles. Snow showers were expected to affect the Milford Rd until today, mainly south of Lake Gunn.

Invercargill police said the weather had caused a few vehicles to crash in Te Anau and Lumsden but no one was injured.

It snowed heavily in Gore during the morning but by afternoon, slush was all that was left.

Invercargill's day started with heavy rain and on 1C.

The temperatures did not get any higher than 7C and the same could be expected today, Law said.

Snow blanketed many parts of Wakatipu yesterday, bringing welcome relief to skifields but testing conditions for motorists.

Flurries of fresh snow settled briefly in downtown Queenstown, Frankton and Arthurs Pt while around the region, skifields were enjoying solid snowfall after a dire start to the season.

Up to 20cm accumulated on the skifields. The Remarkables, with a multimillion-dollar terrain expansion and new Curvey Basin chairlift, opens today.

The Remarkables ski area manager Ross Lawrence said 10cm of fresh snow had accumulated by the afternoon. All areas, with the exception of Shadow Basin, were expected to open.

"We're certainly pretty excited. Friday there's some more snow coming in and it's very cold so there's lots of snowmaking. On the first chair the bubbles will be out for sure.

"We'll be celebrating getting up and running, it's up to the public now to come on up, take it in and enjoy."

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Last month, southern ski fields - with the exception of Coronet Peak - delayed scheduled openings due to a lack of snow but with school holidays rapidly approaching, the dump spells utter relief.

Roads were hazardous and some businesses in Central Otago closed early to let staff get home safely. In Alexandra, the temperature struggled to get above zero and the Lindis Pass, the Crown Range Rd and Milford Rd were all hit by snow to low levels.

Law said the forecast for the next couple of days was for a westerly flow and more snow showers possible tomorrow and Saturday.

"It's all been showery. This afternoon there'll be more showers but not huge amounts [of snow]."

- The Southland Times

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