Skiers ready as road crews put foot down to open mountain access roads
Skiers and snowboarders, as well as transport operators, will be keeping a close eye on weekend weather forecasts as heavy snow and strong winds created havoc on mountain access roads and regional highways.
Vertigo Oakura surf and snowboard shop manager Cole Barker said snow enthusiasts had begun to bring snowboards in to be tuned in readiness for the Manganui skifield to open this weekend.
"We haven't had a snow fall like this for quite a while," he said.
"With the winds coming from the south east there is a chance it will blow the snow off the field but the forecast is looking pretty clear in a few days."
* Live: Storm moves north
* More heavy snow, gales, downpours ahead
* Photos: Wintry storm strikes NZ
* Huge waves, fierce winds roar through Cook Strait
* Power cuts, wild wind and rain hammer Wellington
Road contractors worked around the clock on Thursday to open mountain access roads by the weekend to Stratford Mountain House, Dawson Fall Lodge and North Taranaki Visitors Centre.
All three accommodation and visitors centres were cut off on Thursday by deep snowfalls on access roads inside Egmont National Park boundary.
New Plymouth District Council said all access roads were closed until road crews could clear away snow drifts.
The snow depth is estimated to be between 0.5m-1.5m.
The Meteorological Service had forecasted rain clearing, wind speeds dropping and fine spells developing on Friday afternoon in Taranaki.
Fine clear weather after brief morning showers is forecast for Saturday.
Around 3300 homes in Taranaki were without power on Thursday as contractors worked to restore supply.
A truck that rolled on State Highway 3 in South Taranaki blocked the road to all traffic for nearly four hours.
This meant all northern bound routes in the North Island, south of Central Plateau and Taranaki, were closed after the crash about 11.30am on Thursday.
Police warned residents to secure outside belongings before the bad weather struck as trampolines went flying from several properties in New Plymouth and Patea.
Samantha Eley and Jason Dahm grappled to control their trampoline as it gained height over the fence of their Whalers Gate, New Plymouth.
Dahm won back his trampoline and secured it with two new strops.
Strong winds caused another trampoline to land on a roof in Patea.
Dawson Falls Lodge chef Chrissie Thomas said the business had been shut off by the closed access road to the lodge since Wednesday morning.
"It's a white-out, absolutely beautiful," she said.
Thomas said snow was continuing to fall on late Thursday afternoon.
"It's pretty dramatic and there are steady winds swirling around.
"There will be a bit of bush bowled over by the wind."
Thomas estimated up to half a metre of snow had fallen around the lodge.
The lodge had not lost any power as it had its own small power station - one of the oldest in the country built in 1896, she said.
"We're okay for power and food, although our normal deliveries had been delayed a day," she said.
The last guests had left on Wednesday morning before the road had closed.
Another group of guests had bookings cancelled because they were not able to get to the lodge, she said.
"There's no vehicle access anywhere, even four wheel drive."
Stratford Ski Club members were warning of avalanche risks if anyone decided to walk to the lodge on the Manganui skifield at East Egmont.
Power had been cut to the lodge early Thursday morning as lines in the national park buckled under the weight of the fresh snowfall, said club member Rob Needs.
Heavy snowfalls, downed lines and flooding have created havoc across Powerco's electricity network with several thousand customers facing a night without power.
Snow in the central North Island is blocking several highways and preventing field crews from getting to problem areas.
Powerco network operations manager Phil Marsh said about 11,000 customers in the lower North island were without power on late Thursday.
Damage was spread throughout Powerco's Western District network which included Taranaki.
Plans were being prepared for a concerted effort from first light on Friday to restore power to as many customers as possible.
"Fallen trees and branches have brought down lines and smashed poles across the network so there is considerable repair work in front of us," he said.
"People should take extreme care if they see trees down and need to check for downed lines which are dangerous and must be treated as live at all times."
Trampolines and outdoor furniture became missiles and got tangled in power lines during gale force wind conditions.
The storm had struck right in the middle of the school holidays and parents were urged to keep family indoors until it passed.
- Taranaki Daily News