Highways all open as weather eases

All southern highways are open again after yesterday's weather bomb left some closed for a time this morning.

After two days of heavy snow in the southern region, forecasters said yesterday afternoon the worst was over, but sections of three highways remained closed this morning: State Highway 87 (Outram-Middlemarch), SH90 (RaesJunction-Edievale) and SH94 (Milford Road).

Conditions have eased considerably today and shortly before midday the NZ Transport Agency had advised that all highways were open.

The beanies worn over the last few days could be swapped for sunhats by the weekend, as weather in the South looks set to take a marked turn for the better.

Kaka Point resident Hayden Campbell has the beach and waves to himself as he heads out for a surf...
Kaka Point resident Hayden Campbell has the beach and waves to himself as he heads out for a surf during yesterday’s snowstorms. PHOTOS: STEPHEN JAQUIERY

Plummeting temperatures and snowstorms brought chaos to work and travel plans yesterday.

Snow was heavy at times in Dunedin, even settling on some of the city’s beaches.

The sea met the snow at Kaka Point yesterday. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
The sea met the snow at Kaka Point yesterday. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

Slippery roads posed problems for motorists, particularly in the hill suburbs.

Several southern highways were closed yesterday, and the NZ Transport Agency posted cautions for many others.

The Clutha District Council said snow settled to low levels across its network.

Mr Campbell in action.
Mr Campbell in action.

Near Queenstown, the Crown Range Rd was closed, first due to snow, and later following a crash. 

In Central Otago, Moa Flat and Danseys Pass roads were closed.

Most roads were expected to be open by this morning, as conditions improved late yesterday.

A MetService spokesman said a ridge of high pressure was expected to move eastwards across New Zealand, bringing mostly settled weather.

Temperatures were expected to increase, reaching weekend highs of 22degC in Dunedin and Oamaru, 21degC in Alexandra and 20degC in Wanaka.

Balclutha covered in snow. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Balclutha covered in snow. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

Such balmy temperatures were wishful thinking for drivers stuck in near-blizzard conditions in South Otago yesterday.

About 50 cars and trucks became stranded on State Highway 1 near Hillend, north of Balclutha, as swirling snow showers caused intermittent white-outs and impassable road conditions.

Police and the Clutha District Council contractors worked to move stranded trucks from about 10am to 11am, during which time other traffic was asked to remain in place.

The highway was reopened shortly afterwards.

Emergency services were called to a crash on the Owaka Highway at Ahuriri Flat about 2.30pm.

Police said a car with two passengers hit a power pole in icy road conditions.

Milton residents woke to the town blanketed in snow. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Milton residents woke to the town blanketed in snow. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

One passenger had moderate injuries.

Others avoided the roads altogether, instead heading for their local beach.

Kaka Point surfer Hayden Campbell said he had a snow-covered beach to himself yesterday morning.

The snow was the heaviest he had seen at his home.

Snow combined with high winds left many farmers concerned for stock, as spring lambs had their first real brush with Jack Frost.

The small South Otago town of Owaka yesterday. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
The small South Otago town of Owaka yesterday. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

Milton sheep and beef farmer Nigel Woodhead told RNZ the snow depth on his farm had doubled overnight on Monday.

"For us, that’s a big snowfall any time of the year, so to have it [now] is not good.

"It’ll cause some problems ... There would’ve been a few lambs fallen overnight and unless they were in good shelter ... I daresay they were [killed] unfortunately."

After heavy snow in Central Otago on Monday, frosty conditions persisted yesterday.

Although this may have been unwelcome for the region’s vineyards and orchards.

River Rock Estate vineyard in Cromwell experienced sub-zero conditions throughout the day.

Estate owner Graeme McDowell said the temperature dropped to -2.8degC at 7am yesterday, leaving vines icicle-bound until about 4pm.

But the late-season snowfall also means an unexpected bonus for skiers, after Coronet Peak announced a special single-morning reopening today.

NZSki communications and media relations manager Libby Baron said season pass holders only could head up to the fields between 9am and 11am for a final session.

The Remarkables Ski Area will close on October 11, and Cardrona Alpine Resort in Wanaka will be the last Otago skifield to close, a week later.

Additional reporting RNZ


 

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