Conditions ease on roads after blast hits South

Conditions are easing on southern roads after a short, sharp southwest change hit the region today, closing some state highways and prompting warnings.

The NZ Transport Agency this afternoon issued a raft of advisories, saying that snow and ice had cleared on most roads, after several closures this morning.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council advises that the Crown Range Road is open, after being closed overnight and part of this morning.

The NZTA advised caution to motorists taking SH1 from Dunedin to Palmerston due to winter driving conditions. Snow showers are possible at times about the summit the Northern Motorway (SH1) until 6pm today, but little if any snow was expected to settle on the road.

Central Otago District Council said this morning the roads were a mix of wet and dry with temperatures sitting between -1degC and 5deC.

In Fiordland, the Milford Road (SH94) is closed, from Hollyford to Chasm, due to heavy snow which was expected to continue on into this evening. It is likely to reopen tomorrow. Up to 25cm of snow was expected about the summit, with lesser amounts down to 200 metres.

It looks to be a brief run of bad weather, however, as tomorrow conditions are expected to begin clearing for a mostly fine weekend in Otago and Southland.

MetService forecaster Cameron Coutts said the weather would be "pretty miserable", and road snowfall and wind warnings were in place across much of the region.

MetService said there was a snow watch for parts of Fiordland, Southland and Clutha as heavy snow above 400m was expected. 

Snow on the hills above Wakari this morning. Photo: Vaughan Elder
Snow on the hills above Wakari this morning. Photo: Vaughan Elder

However, snow earlier blanketed the rural area of Hillend, north of Balclutha, which has an elevation around 200m.

Clutha District Council said this afternoon its contractors were reporting snowfall across most of the district.
 
In an update this evening it advised of the following restrictions: Owaka Valley, 4x4 only; Waipori Rd/Mahinerangi Rd 4x4 only; Hillend/Mt Stuart Rd from Falla Burn to Roberts Rd is still closed; Cockle Shell & Athenaeum Rd is 4x4 only.
 

The Southland District Council earlier today said the weather was creating hazardous driving conditions, and in an update this afternoon said more snow was forecast across the region overnight and there may be ice and snow on roads for the next couple of days.

Snow blankets the rural area of Hillend, in the Clutha District. Photo: John Cosgrove
Snow blankets the rural area of Hillend, in the Clutha District. Photo: John Cosgrove

After an overnight change last night, Dunedin city was expected to reach a high of 9degC today with high winds, rain and some snow flurries on hills above 200m, Mr Coutts said.

In Queenstown, wind, rain and snow flurries would be about until mid-afternoon today, with a high of 9deg.

Snow showers were expected on the Crown Range Rd until 6pm today, and 1cm-3cm was expected to accumulate near the summit, with lesser amounts down to 200m.

Invercargill would reach a high of 6degC today as sleety showers, hail and strong winds hit the city, Mr Coutts said.

A heavy snow watch was in force for Fiordland, south of Dagg Sound, and Southland, south of Mossburn, and Clutha, with periods of snow above 400m forecast until 4pm today.

Clutha and Southland were under a wind watch until 1pm today and there could be gales of up to 100kmh in some places.

Mr Coutts said the South would see a gradual improvement tomorrow and a cold, slightly windy but fine weekend.

Dark clouds over Dunedin city, seen from Vauxhall last night. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Dark clouds over Dunedin city, seen from Vauxhall last night. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH

emma.perry@odt.co.nz

- additional reporting ODT Online

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