Wintry blast on the way

ABBIE NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 03/03/2014

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Autumn has arrived with hail, thunder, cold temperatures and gales picked for the South Island this week after snow covered the higher parts of the Alps on Saturday.

MetService meteorologist Mark Todd said a "fairly intense" weather system would bring heavy showers, hail and thunder today and gale force winds to the South Island's east coast tomorrow.

"Autumn has definitely arrived and the South Island is going to get the brunt of it over the next few days," he said.

He said snow would settle as low as 900 metres and Banks Peninsula could get a dusting.

While some forecasters are saying it is too soon to tell what's in store for the winter ahead, others are predicting polar blasts and snow dumps in Christchurch.

The snow fell overnight on Friday in Tekapo, Mt Lyford, The Remarkables, Cardrona, Mt Oxford and Porters Pass, with some areas reporting it down to 1000 metres above sea level.

MetService forecaster Oliver Druce said it often snowed high in the mountains at this time of year.

"Things are getting cooler from now on."

Canterbury Weather Updates spokesman Josh Oliver said to see snow so low and so thick at this time of year was unusual.

"For it to fall down to 600 metres [now] in Canterbury is unheard of," he said. He was expecting Canterbury to face a "severe" winter this year.

"This winter we will be having a lot of cold snaps," he said. "We could easily get a snap that could dump more than 30 centimetres of snow or more on the plains."

Oliver believed New Zealand often followed the patterns of northern winters, which had been miserable this year.

On the plus side, Oliver said, the sunny days would likely be warmer than usual with highs of 14 degrees or more.

My Lyford Holiday Homes owner Claudine Barnes has lived in Mt Lyford Village for 14 years and said snow this time of year was a surprise.

"It is very out of the ordinary," she said. "We woke up this morning and the mountain was white."

Barnes said in previous years snow had fallen as early as December, but not so thick and low on the mountain.

"It's definintely not t-shirt weather here," she said. "It must have been a reasonable dump."

In Mt Hutt snow was reported in early January with a few centimetres spotted at the top of the mountain.

Mt Hutt Ski Area operations manager James Urquhart said there was 5 to 10 centimetres of snow on the mountain yesterday but it was too soon to predict what the winter's skiing would be like.

"It's always good to see the snow. At this time of year it does get all our overseas businesses making early bookings."

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- Fairfax Media

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