Wild winds hammer South

Snow posed problems for motorists on the Crown Range road this morning. Photo Mark Price
Snow posed problems for motorists on the Crown Range road this morning. Photo Mark Price

Gale-force winds that brought down trees and cut power in the South Island this morning have moved up the country, blowing a bus carrying 18 schoolchildren off the road.

The bus left Mangaroa Rd, west of Eketahuna in the Tararua District, about 8.10am today, Inspector Ian Harris of police central communications said.

"There were absolutely no injuries and the 18 kids got on another bus and carried on to school," he said.

Emergency services had been told the bus was blown off the road.

Iin the south, motorists were urged to take care as winds created problems on roads around the region.

Wind caused a power pole to come down on the road between Clinton and Waipahi this morning, but the downed lines were repaired by 9am, Senior Sergeant Craig Brown, of Dunedin, said.

A large road sign was also blown over the road near Milton.

''Must have been a large sign because no-one could move it.''

Fire and police were called to downed power lines on the Waitahuna road, near Lawrence, and the road was closed for a period.

Police were also investigating a car roll-over near Lawrence, Snr Sgt Brown said.

Snow also caused problems, with several motorists getting stuck on the Wanaka side of the Crown Range.

The snow had stopped by late morning and the road was being gritted allowingtraffic to move again.

The MetService has issued severe weather warnings for much of the lower South Island, with strong wind warnings for Southland, Otago and Canterbury.

Heavy snow warnings are in place for Fiordland, Southland and Clutha, while a heavy rain warning is in place for the ranges of Westland south of Otira.

Inspector Olaf Jensen of Southland police said gale-force winds had brought trees down and caused limited power disruption in some areas of the region.

Roads remained open but motorists were advised to to exercise "extreme care" on Southland roads.

Power was cut to Millers Flat and Roxburgh but has since been restored.

The MetService said strong westerly and northwesterly winds were gusting up to 160km/h as the front moved over the South Island.

The front would be followed by a cold change that would see temperatures plummet, bringing snow to low levels in warning areas.

MetService severe weather forecaster Leigh Matheson said the strongest winds this morning were in the Foveaux Strait, Stewart Island and Southland.

The Foveaux Strait was being battered by 100km/h winds, gusting up to 160km/h, while 60km/h gales in Invercargill were gusting up to 120km/h.

Strong winds were also hammering Otago, with 50km/h northwesterly winds in Dunedin gusting up to 80km/h.

Ms Matheson said the gales should ease this morning as the front moved over the country.

"Temperatures are expected to drop significantly from later this morning into this afternoon, so snow will gradually lower from this afternoon into this evening," she said.

In Fiordland, snow below 300m was expected from this afternoon, becoming heavy this evening. Heavy snow would follow in Southland and Clutha from about midnight.

"In all of those areas, we're expecting snow to near sea level. But the significant amounts, or the large amounts, will probably be above about 300m," Ms Matheson said.

Snow was likely to push further north tomorrow, with southern parts of Central Otago and Dunedin expected to see some snow to low levels, but not in large amounts.

Heavy rain was falling in Westland this morning, with 30-40mm of rainfall in the ranges since midnight. The rain was not expected to ease until this afternoon.


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