Snow in the south as wintry blast hits

Last updated 10:07 26/05/2014

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South Canterbury has woken to a cold start to the week but appears to have escaped the snow which is causing problems further south.

NZTA is reporting all roads in the region are open, although chains are to be carried on the Lindis Pass.


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The temperature at Timaru airport was 4.1 degrees Celsius at 9am, with the town expecting a high of 9C today.

SOUTH HAS SNOWY WAKEUP CALL

Coastal Southland has missed out on the dumping of snow that has hit Northern Southland, Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes areas.

However, the polar blast that is moving up the South Island is keeping temperatures in single digits.

Widespread snow has blanketed Queenstown and Arrowtown and areas in northern Southland.

Emergency Management Southland's Craig Sinclair said snow had fallen in the Lumsden, Athol and Te Anau areas.

''One of the people we work with, a farmer near Athol, has reported snow to 400 metres,'' Sinclair said. ''He was feeding his cattle in in 20-inches of snow and said it was bloody cold.''

In Southland Mossburn School, Northern Southland College, Mararoa School and Fiordland Kindergarten are all reported as closed on More FM Southland, while school buses for Hauroko Valley Primary School and Waiau Area School are not running today.

Heavy snow has closed the road from Hollyford to Milford Sound.

However, the NZ Transport Agency website says conditions are expected to improve and the road was likely to reopen by midday, with possible towing restrictions.

SNOW FORCES FLIGHT CANCELLATIONS

Snow has forced the cancellation of seven scheduled flights in and out of Queenstown Airport through to early afternoon.

Airport communications manager Jen Andrews said the problem was mainly with services using turboprop aircraft.

Air New Zealand was planning to send in a jet on a replacement flight which should leave Christchurch about 11.30am and arrive at Queenstown just after noon.

Snow in the area was down to the level of Lake Wakatipu.

"Everything is pretty blanketed," Andrews said.

Work had been under way clearing the airport runway since 2am and it was hoped flights scheduled for later in the afternoon would be able to operate.

"The guys have cleared all the heavy snow off the runway. Now they are just dealing with the slush."

POLICE URGE CARE ON ROADS

Snow is affecting some roads in the Gore District.

The roading team advises there is about 3cm of snow on Crawford Road, above the Mataura cemetery, making it very slippery.

Clinker Hill Road, north of Bryant Road, is also affected by snow.

Diamond Peak and Kaiwera roads are being cleared and are passable, with care.

There are no disruptions to flights in and out of Invercargill; however, transport on snow-covered roads was put behind schedule including newspaper deliveries.

Snow fell on the hills around Dunedin, with drivers being urged to take great care.

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Many schools were closed first thing in the city with a late start to the school day for many youngsters. 

Sergeant Simon Paget, of Cromwell, said motorists should take extreme care on the roads.

State Highway 8 between Roxburgh and Alexandra was "treacherous", with snow still falling.

"There is also black ice around Roaring Meg on the Kawarau Gorge, the Lindis River Bridge and Tarras areas and between Cromwell and Clyde."

Motorists driving two-wheel vehicles should carry chains, Paget said.

There had been no reported weather-related accidents in the area at this stage, he said.

The deep South woke to snow this morning following a night of wintry weather while severe gales also cut power in the lower North Island.

Widespread snow has fallen on the hills around Dunedin, with drivers being urged to take care.

In the lower North Island, powerlines were downed and roofing iron lifted as gusts hit 148kmh. There were 2200 homes without power in the Wairarapa and Tararua districts this morning.

Dunedin City Council reported several bus services had been suspended in the city, including all hill routes and school runs.

In Central Otago, the Queenstown Lakes District Council said snow falls had been widespread. Contractors were working to clear main roads but chains were essential in most places.

MetService forecaster Mark Todd said light snow falling had been reported at sea level in Dunedin and Invercargill. At 6.30am snow was still falling at Queenstown Airport.

Snow has closed several main routes in the South Island including State Highway 1 between Dunedin to Waitati.

» See a list of closed roads/roads with chains required here.

"Blizzard conditions" were expected today across parts of Southland, Otago and the Alpine passes.

GOOD NEWS FOR SKIERS

Mt Hutt Ski Area manager James McKenzie said the field had received about 5 centimetres of snow and would probably get more.

NZSki said 50cm of snow had fallen at The Remarkables.

"Winter has arrived at The Remarkables with snow covering the entire ski area and more. It is snowing right down through Queenstown," it said

Heavy machinery was working to clear snow from the bottom of the access road to the ski base area, and people were told not to try to get to the ski area.

'WE CAN'T KEEP ON TOP OF IT ... STAY AT HOME'

Nick Rodger from the NZ Transport Agency in Otago said contractors had been out through the night in the region.

"They've been working very hard ... trying to keep the snow from settling and from forming a solid pack," he told Radio NZ.

"The snow's coming down so deep in our higher country areas that we just can't keep on top of it, so we've had to close the highways (in those areas) in the interests of road safety."

Several trucks had slid off the northern motorway out of Dunedin overnight, "so the main route out of Dunedin north is shut," he said.

"My advice would be if you don't need to go out, stay at home."

WINDS BUFFET WELLINGTON REGION

Powerlines were downed and roofing iron lifted as gusts hit 148kmh in Wellington overnight.

The Fire Service attended about 60 weather-related callouts overnight in Wairarapa, Wellington and Kapiti, central communications shift manager Mike Wanoa said.

Most of them were for powerlines that had blown down or roofing iron lifting.

MetService recorded the peak wind gust in Wellington in the 24 hours till 6am today at 148km at the top of Mt Kaukau.

High winds last night meant there were 2200 without power this morning, Powerco said.

The 6.15am train service from Palmerston North to Wellington was about 70 minutes late due to a tree blown over the line at Longburn and was now due in Wellington at 9.35am, a KiwiRail spokeswoman said.

COLD SNAP MOVES NORTH

The bitterly cold temperatures would hit Canterbury mid-morning today, MetService said.

Snow may fall on Banks Peninsula above 400 metres, where wind gusts could exceed 130kmh, he said.

Christchurch was not expected to get any snow, apart from the "possibility of a few flurries". Instead, there would be some patchy rain and sleety showers.

Further north, MetService was warning of snow in the North Island central plateau and urged drivers to be cautious on the Desert Road because of snow drifts and strong winds. It expected 1cm-2cm of snow to accumulate on higher parts of the road during the morning.

- Fairfax Media

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