Queen's Birthday weather: Brrrrrr

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 31/05/2014

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Cantabrians heading out to the rugby or supporting the Christchurch Marathon this weekend may want to rug up before braving the elements.

Cold, dry weather is forecast for the region tonight and throughout Queen's Birthday weekend, with temperatures dipping below freezing each night.

MetService forecaster John Law said the long weekend was expected to be "fine and dry" throughout, with "nice clear skies" during both the days and nights.

The temperature is expected to drop to -3 degrees Celsius tonight; meaning those planning to support the Crusaders should consider rugging up first.

The Crusaders will face the Western Force at AMI Stadium from 7.35pm today.

Law said those participating in the annual Christchurch Marathon on Sunday should also consider the cold, with a low of -4C expected overnight tomorrow.

"It's going to be a chilly old start for that."

Highs of only 11C or 12C are expected during the long weekend, and conditions are expected to be similar throughout the South Island, he said.

HIGH CHANGE OF AIR POLLUTION

The cold overnight temperatures ahead pose a risk of Christchurch hitting another high pollution night.

"Clear cold nights and light winds, a lot of people using their fires, so it could be a bit murky in the mornings," Law said.

Christchurch hit its fifth high pollution day for 2014 yesterday.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) measures pollution by the amount of small particles in the air (known as PM10), such as dust, smoke or fog.

A high reading is a daily concentration greater than 50 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

Yesterday, 55mcg was recorded at ECan's monitoring station in St Albans.

Christchurch had recorded three days of high pollution by the same time last year. 

WARNING FOR WEEKEND DRIVERS

Cantabrians heading away for the long weekend have been urged to take care as icy conditions make roads hazardous.  

NZ Transport Agency journey manager Lee Wright said motorists needed to take extra care this weekend with increased traffic because of the long weekend, the start of winter arriving and many farms changing hands.

Shorter days and unpredictable winter weather could make driving more of a challenge, especially on alpine passes where motorists needed to watch for shady areas and frost, she said.

Tomorrow also marked the annual 'Gypsy Day', where thousands of farm animals and hundreds of households hit rural roads as farms changed hands and sharemilkers took up new contracts.

Part of State Highway 73 remained down to one lane west of Otira following a massive slip last week, while Haast Pass at the Diana Falls slip site also remained down to a single lane during the day and would be closed completely overnight.

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Sergeant Phil Newtown, of the Canterbury highway patrol, said long trips, heavy traffic, weather and alcohol could combine to increase the risk of crashes this weekend.

He encouraged drivers to wear seatbelts, drive and safe speeds and avoid drinking and driving.

Over the last six Queen's Birthday weekends, Canterbury recorded three fatal crashes, 10 serious injuries crashes, 43 minor injury crashes and 108 non-injury crashes.

All three of the fatal crashes happened on urban roads between 6pm and 2.30am and all were alcohol-related, Newton said.

Poor observation was the leading cause of crashes in Canterbury over the last six years (37 per cent), followed by poor handling (29 per cent), and failing to give way or stop (27 per cent).

About 23 per cent of crashes happened while cornering and 13 per cent happened through loss of control on a straight road.

The Queen's Birthday weekend holiday period officially begins at 4pm today and ends at 6am on Tuesday.

Newton said police across the country would be "strictly enforcing" a 4kmh speed threshold during the holiday period. 

- The Press

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