Snow avoids Chch but boosts skifields

CHE BAKER, SIOBHAN DOWNES AND MYLES HUME
Last updated 14:05 12/08/2014

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Snow, hail, and sleet is disrupting travel on South Island highways for the second time in a week.

A cold southwest flow brought more wintry weather to the south overnight, with more sleety showers expected in Southland, Otago and Fiordland today.

Meanwhile, a brief hailstorm whipped through Christchurch at 1.45pm.

The city can expect an otherwise fine day with some showers and a high of 11 degrees Celsius. Sustained periods of fine weather are not expected to set in until Friday.

Mt Hutt and Porters ski fields received 15 and 10 centimetres of snow, respectively, and are poised for a busy day with fine, clearing conditions.

State Highway 94 Milford Sound to Te Anau would remain closed today at Hollyford and Chasm for snow clearing and avalanche control work, the New Zealand Transport Agency said.

Several other roads round Lewis Pass, Arthur's Pass, Tekapo and the central lakes were restricted to drivers with chains only.

MetService severe weather forecaster Leigh Matheson said the Milford Tunnel had about 15 centimetres of snow overnight.

One to two centimetres of snow could accumulate on the Porters, Arthur's and Lewis passes, but these should clear this morning, she said.

New Zealand Transport Agency Otago Southland journey manager Graeme Hall said Southland was expected to be the hardest hit area but plans were in place to manage what the weather "throws at us the best we can".

He urged motorists to drive to the conditions, carry chains, expect delays and limit travel if it was not necessary. Drivers also needed to take precautions in case they needed to stop and be able to keep warm in their cars.

The cold south-westerly would bring heavy showers with hail, sleet and snow down to 100 metres in other areas.

"It's more likely snow showers will be around Southland and Clutha with just a sprinkling for Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago," MetService forecaster Liz Walsh said.

"It's going to be cold."

Cardrona Alpine Resort sales and marketing manager Nadia Ellis said "the temperatures have been really cold which means we have some fantastic mid-winter conditions.

With wintry showers expected for ski fields, managers were preparing for prime snow conditions.

Yesterday the resort recorded 25cm of snow fall since Sunday night.

"The flakes that fell today were huge so there is plenty of soft fresh snow to enjoy when the weather clears. We expect an influx of eager skiers and snowboarders," she said.

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- The Press

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