Severe weather warning for South Island

NICOLE MATHEWSON AND LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 12:05 07/08/2014

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Wild winds around the South Island this morning may have eased, but residents should not get too comfortable.

Much of the south is now enjoying a calm spell, but MetService says more wintry weather is on the way.

Meteorologist Liz Wash said a cold blast was expected to move in from this afternoon, bringing with it rain, sleet and snow.

MetService issued severe weather warnings for much of the South Island as a front approached the lower part of the island overnight.

Northwest gales could cause issues in parts of Southland, Otago and inland Canterbury, while periods of heavy snow could affect Fiordland, Southland and Clutha from this afternoon, through to tomorrow morning.

Periods of heavy rain are also expected for Westland, with up to 100mm of rain possibly falling within a 15 hour period from last night.

Most of the rain will fall in the ranges, potentially causing rivers to rise rapidly and making slips possible in vulnerable areas.

Most of the strong winds should have passed overnight, but gusts of up to 140kmh could be possible about Stewart Island and Foveaux Strait this morning.

A very cold airstream is due to move onto the South Island today, bringing snow to near sea level in Southland and Fiordland and heavy snow to the ranges.

Up to 20cm of snow could accumulate within six to 15 hours overnight and early tomorrow in Southland.

The NZ Transport Agency issued a road snowfall warning for the Milford Rd today, saying chains must be carried.

Wind warnings are also in place for state highways 90 (Raes Junction to McNab), 8 (Raes Junction to Clarksville), 1 (Dunedin to Gore), and 73 (Springfield to Arthurs Pass).

Motorcyclists and those driving caravans or other high-sided vehicles are urged to take extra caution on the affected highways.

SOUTHLAND HIT HARD

Strong winds kept emergency services busy this morning, as they worked to clear fallen trees and powerlines and secure loose roofs., while the weather played a role in at least two crashes this morning.

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

A police officer spotted the smashed window in the Hallenstein's 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 have reported several power lines and trees blown down across roads.

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A vehicle hit a fallen tree along SH6 near Lorneville about 6am, while a few minutes later, a truck hit a cow while travelling 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.

Brown warned drivers to be wary of objects, including powerlines and trees, blown across the road, and to keep an eye on weather alerts, as snow was expected later today.

- The Press

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