Roads treacherous in wake of snow

University of Otago student Jack Hunt 'rides' the powder on Pitt St.
University of Otago student Jack Hunt 'rides' the powder on Pitt St.

The worst of the snow that hit the South looks to have passed, but road conditions remain treacherous and motorists are urged to take care.

Snow fell to low levels in many places overnight and this morning, forcing the closure of many schools and roads and the cancellation of flights at Dunedin and Queenstown airports.

MetService says the worst of the snow has been and gone, save for occasional localised heavy showers.

It is a snow day for many pupils, with a large number of schools and kindergartens closed across the South.

In Dunedin, police are urging drivers to avoid non-essential travel.

Officers on the hill suburbs had reported routes were ''almost impassable'' to anyone other than those with 4WD or a vehicle with chains, Senior Sergeant Craig Brown, of Dunedin, said.

''Non-essential travel should be avoided where possible,'' he said.

''Obviously we can't stop people from heading into work, but if you are in those hill suburbs you may have to walk a wee distance.''

There had been several reports of crashes, including Drivers Rd, Lachlan Ave, Balmacewen Rd, Kenmure Rd with three vehicles going into a ditch on Saddle Hill.

State Highway 1, the Northern Motorway out of Dunedin has reopened to cars but remains closed to towing vehicles, the New Zealand Transport Agency advises.

Three Mile Hill road is also closed.

Some bus services around the city are resuming but hill services remain out of action - they are being reviewed. The SDHB advises that due to weather conditions the 4WD shuttle is currently not operating between Wakari and Dunedin Hospitals.

NZ Post advises that deliveries have been cancelled in Dunedin and Mosgiel, and says there may be disruptions to deliveries in Wanaka and Invercargill. Delivery will resume on Saturday, weather allowing.

Flights have been cancelled at both Dunedin and Queenstown airports.

In Central Otago, the risk of ice forming on roads is high as snow and moisture freeze.

A Central Otago District Council roading report said temperatures across the region ranged from -5 to 2 degrees at 7am.

Conditions in the Maniototo were reported by the council to be ''extremely hazardous'', after snow fell overnight and this morning.

The only road closed in the area was Danseys Pass Rd; however, access to the hotel was still available.

Drivers were advised of snow and ice, with extra care required until further notice.

Snow flurries were experienced widely throughout the region during the morning, falling heavily at times.

Roxburgh received about 10cm of snow, but it had begun to melt by mid-morning.

Parts of Roxburgh were without power overnight and this morning, after two separate incidents of trees falling on lines.

The power had been restored by about 11am today.

Gimmerburn and Patearoa received about 2cm of snow, while Oturehua had about 4cm, and Naseby a small amount on top of the 10cm received yesterday.

Bannockburn also received a light dusting of snow. 

Most highways in the South remain open this morning but there are cautions in place for many and chains are essential on some stretches.

State Highway 87, Kyeburn to Outram is closed owing to snow, as is SH85 Kyeburn-Palmerston and SH93, Mataura-Clinton.

Snow is continuing to fall in the Clutha District and it is recommended that all non-essential travel be avoided until conditions improve. 

All rubbish kerbside collections in Dunedin are cancelled & will now be done tomorrow. All rubbish to be out by 7am.

While snow has continued to fall to sea-level in the South this morning, MetService says the threat of widespread deep accumulations has now passed and the snow warnings have been lifted.

There may be a few localised heavy snow showers until 10 or 11am this morning.

While the cold front is moving north, strong south to southwest winds are expected in coastal Otago and Clutha, with gusts of 120 kmh, sufficiently strong to damage trees and powerlines and create difficult driving conditions, MetService says.

Yesterday, snow began falling in Central Otago about 9am, in the mountains, hills and areas such as St Bathans, Naseby, Oturehua and Ranfurly. Despite about 10cm falling in Naseby, the only road closed in the area was the Danseys Pass Rd.

Much of the snow in lower Central Otago areas had melted by late afternoon during a fine period after much of the cloud cover cleared about noon.

Maniototo Area School principal Patsy Inder said the Ranfurly school sent some pupils from outlying areas home during the day to avoid any worsening road conditions. However, disruptions to the school programme were minor.

A brief snow shower on the Crown Range road between Wanaka and Queenstown yesterday morning caught out some motorists. Only a few centimetres fell but the road became very slippery. Those without chains, and others unsure how to fit them,were stuck for some time before grit trucks and rising temperatures improved conditions. The nearby Cardrona Alpine Resort skifield closed for the day, although Treble Cone remained open.

Strong winds yesterday morning snapped wooden power poles near Invercargill and blew out panes of glass in the city.

At Makarewa, about 10km north of Invercargill, 17 poles ''snapped like dominoes'' when the high winds hit about 6am, electricity network company PowerNet chief executive Jason Franklin said.

By mid-afternoon most of the poles had been repaired and power was restored to all but one property, he said.

Panes of glass blew out from the veranda of the Radio Southland building in the central city and a window on the first floor above a nearby shop was shattered.

South Otago also missed the worst of the weather front yesterday.

North Otago was not expected to feel the brunt of the southerly front until later today, Waitaki emergency services manager Chris Raine said.

While southern areas of the South island shivered yesterday, the only areas affected in North Otago were higher ground, including State Highway 8 through the Lindis Pass and SH85 on the Pigroot. Motorists were warned to be cautious and to carry chains.

The Otago Rugby Football Union has cancelled some games tomorrow. The new  draw can be seen here

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