Blustery conditions turn to snow

Brace yourself for snow this morning, but don't give up on your weekend plans.

MetService has forecast snow to sea level in some parts of the south, prompting warnings from Emergency Management Southland for southerners to keep off the road.

Heavy snow fell in northern Southland and Central Otago last night. 

Blustery winds, sleet and hail rattled the rest of the region.  Police are warning drivers to take care if they need to be on the roads.

Constable Dave Leach, of Lumsden, said a spell of real bitter weather had moved into the area last night.  But the news is not all bad.

MetService meteorologist Liz Walsh said while snow showers were likely to sea level in some parts, with up to 15cm of snow expected to settle inland, winds would not be as strong as they were yesterday, and conditions were expected to ease going into tomorrow.

Temperatures were also likely to rise ''just a little'' tomorrow, before dropping again on Sunday, she said.

Yesterday's blustery conditions kept emergency services busy throughout the south.

Gusts of 116kmh were recorded at Invercargill Airport.

No serious injuries were reported yesterday, but the weather caused damage across the region.

A Southland resident had an early wakeup call yesterday morning when gale force winds brought down power lines just metres from her house.

A gust of wind at 5.30am toppled a line of seventeen poles at Makarewa, north of Invercargill.

ONE News reported a pole crashed down within 10m of Tracy Kennedy's house.

"The wind picked up like a freight train and suddenly I was woken by a flash of lightning", she told ONE News.

"Then I went outside and saw the lines were down ... It was pretty scary."

Ms Kennedy told One News it would likely be days before power was restored to her house, but the neighbours already had it back on.

Senior Sergeant Craig Brown, of Dunedin, said one of Invercargill's main streets was closed after the wind blew in a shop window.

A police officer spotted the smashed window in a building on Dee St just before 7am, Brown said.

A large shard of glass was hanging off the roof and firefighters were called in to secure it.

The Invercargill City Council was alerted and part of the road was closed while glass was cleared up, he said.

Meanwhile, emergency services reported several power lines and trees blown across roads further afield.

A vehicle hit a fallen tree along State Highway 6 near Lorneville about 6am and, a few minutes later, a truck hit a cow along Old Coach Rd, between Clinton and Mataura, Brown said.

The cow was believed to have escaped to the road after being spooked by the electrical storm.

Both the driver and cow were unharmed by the crash, but the cow was a ''little groggy'', he said.

PowerNet network general manager Keith Burns said there had been some major line breaks where poles had broken.

More than 150 line faults were reported, all weather related.

The problem was small ''bullets of wind'' rocketing through and doing damage. All faults were expected to be fixed last night, he said.

The Remarkables and Cardrona ski resorts were closed yesterday with snow flurries and high winds reducing visibility on the mountains and causing havoc on access roads. 

Overnight snow on Wednesday blanketed parts of Central Otago and caused problems on the Crown Range, with some motorists getting stuck.

Chains were required for anyone using the road and the Queenstown Lakes District Council has urged drivers to consider using State Highway 6 via Cromwell to travel between Wanaka and Queenstown.

Motorist were being urged to take care on the Lindis Pass and carry chains.

A driver in a sports car suffered shoulder injuries after crashing into a large tree that had fallen onto the road between Lake Hawea and Albert Town at 6.30 on Wednesday night in high winds.

Emergency services and volunteers with chainsaws took about 45 minutes to clear the road after the tree blocked both lanes.

Constable Peter Reed, of Wanaka, said the driver failed to spot the fallen tree and his car was briefly airborne during impact.

Police were also called to a downed tree in Ballantyne Rd yesterday morning and power cuts were reported in some parts of Central Otago. 

The Southland Times