Christchurch wakes to snow, shake
A small earthquake woke some residents today as snow blanketed homes and streets across Christchurch and the Port Hills.
The magnitude-3.5 quake hit at 6.54am, at eight kilometres deep, and was centred just east of the central city, early GeoNet reports said.
In Christchurch, many residents in the southern suburbs woke to snowy gardens and driveways, with driving conditions challenging on the Port Hills.
Sun and rising temperatures will rapidly clear much of the snow, with MetService forecasting four days of sunshine and increasingly warm temperatures.
The weekend will bring temperatures of about 17 degrees Celsius on Saturday and Sunday.
However, rain is forecast for Queen's Birthday Monday.
Last night's storm may be to blame for a leaking roof at Pioneer Stadium that forced a halt to a clash between two of Christchurch's top netball teams, St Nicholas A and Lincoln University A.
Last night's blizzard-like conditions in Christchurch also left several Banks Peninsula roads closed and others restricted to four-wheel-drive vehicles.
This morning was clear but cold, with motorists warned to take care on roads still covered in snow and ice.
Dyers Pass Rd connecting Cashmere to the harbour suburbs was reopened this morning after being closed overnight.
Christchurch Airport is open.
MetService has forecast a high of 11C today, and cold southwesterlies will die out.
Forecaster Mike O'Connor said motorists should take care particularly in sheltered areas.
"The maximum road speeds don't always apply in these conditions. Keep your distance between vehicles and be aware traction may not be as good as it normally is," he said.
Temperatures plummeted to just 2C at Christchurch Airport about 6am yesterday.
The Christchurch City Council is warning motorists to take extreme care on Banks Peninsula with snow and hail turning to slush in many places. Some roads were marked as closed as they have not been fully inspected yet.
The following roads have been closed:
Roads only open to 4WD with chains:
Roads open but drivers are warned of severe ice and grit:
Skifields celebrate early snowfall
Canterbury may have escaped with only a smattering of snow after this week's icy blast, but the region's skifields are revelling in the earliest decent snowfall in years.
Mt Hutt recieved 15 centimetres of new snow, leaving it with a 40cm base on average over the skifield.
Ski area manager James McKenzie said the early dumping was welcome after recent years of ''nail biting'' in the lead-up to the opening date.
''Last year the snow arrived two days before we opened,'' he said.
In 2011, the opening date had to be delayed after a lack of snow.
Porters Ski Area general manager Uli Dinsenbacher said the field had received 10cm to 15cm over the past few days.
Further south, the Queenstown skifields were lapping up the early start to winter.
The polar front left Treble Cone with 40cm of fresh snow and 35 to 40cm at the top, with snow drifts of up to a metre, marketing manager Nick Noble said.
The Remarkables reported over 30cm of new snow and Coronet Peak over 20cm.
However, skifields nestled in the crux of the South Island have missed out on the dump, but are still confident of a good season.
Mt Dobson Ski Field owner-operator Peter Foote said snow in May was ''certainly not normal'', and the field got about 10cm from the storm.
Ohau Snow Field reported 20cm of snow, but owner-operator Mike Neilson said it was mostly ''filling the cracks'' rather than building a base.
Roundhill Ski Area manager Simon Murrell said the skifield near Lake Tekapo had about 8cm of snow.
Skifield opening dates:
Mt Hutt: June 15.
Mt Dobson: Early July.
Porters: June 21.
Treble Cone: June 27.
The Remarkables: June 22.
Coronet Peak: June 8.
Ohau: June 29.
Roundhill: July 6.