Summer ends in southerly rain

Last updated 19:14 28/02/2014
Umbrellas at Ellerslie Flower Show
Kirk Hargreaves

TAKE COVER: Many have come prepared for the rain at the Ellerslie Flower Show.

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A predicted southerly turn is sweeping up the South Island, bringing bitterly cold temperatures to Christchurch and snow to parts of the Canterbury high country. 

The cold weather hit the Ellerslie Flower Show this afternoon, but many punters came prepared for the worst and light rain simply prompted an unfurling of umbrellas and donning of raincoats. 

Ticket sales and daily visitor numbers are typically affected by the weather at the outdoor event, which is hoping to attract more than 45,000 visitors this year. 

The forecast for the weekend, the final days of the show, is fine.

However, the weather is set to remain cold and wet in Canterbury tonight, with forecasters issuing a warning for strong winds and large hail in Christchurch for the second time in less than a week. 

Canterbury Weather Reports Facebook page noted sleety snow fell in Tekapo this afternoon as temperatures fell rapidly in Christchurch, dropping below 10 degrees Celsius by 3.30pm and just under 8C by 7pm.

MetService forecaster Derick Brenstrum said there had been reports of snow in the Canterbury high country this evening, including around Lake Heron, located about 80km inland from Ashburton and about 500 metres above sea level.

"That should be over or about to finish [by 7pm]," he said. 

"The weather system that caused this is moving quite quickly. There might be some small hail in the next hour or so [in Christchurch]."

Brenstrum said reports suggested the snow had "only just" begun to settle, but the quantity was "minimal". 

"Any little snowflake that was silly enough to fall on the road wouldn't last long."

There was still a chance of sleet in other parts of the South Island following Metservice's earlier warning of thunderstorms and hail.

The wintery conditions were being brought to much of southern New Zealand by a cold trough in the upper atmosphere moving across the South Island, MetService said.

Unsettled weather today and yesterday had brought the rain to dry areas of central Otago and parts of Canterbury, but little chance of imminent rain was offered for large areas of the North Island which were becoming increasingly dry.

Until it received more than 4mm of rain yesterday, Queenstown had received only 7mm of rain in February, with Wanaka getting only 4mm before yesterday's 1.6mm.

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