Ferries cancelled as wintry blast not over yet

Several Interislander ferry services have been cancelled today due to stormy weather in Cook Strait as a bitterly cold southerly blasts its way up the country.

Heavy rain and severe southerly gales are forecast for Wellington today, with waves exceeding 5 metres.

An Interislander spokesman said the last ferry to sail from Wellington left at 9am and the last sailing from Picton was at 10.45am. Affected passengers were being contacted and rescheduled onto sailings tomorrow.

The bad weather has also forced the suspension of the search for a man who fell overboard from a fishing vessel near Wairarapa yesterday.

Wellington's Life Flight rescue helicopter and boats were looking for the man in waters off Cape Palliser yesterday afternoon.

A Rescue Coordination Centre spokesperson says weather conditions are deteriorating and all vessels have left the area. A decision will be made later today about whether to resume the search.

The southerly was moving up the country, but still was expected to bring rain to most areas and more snow in the South Island.

Temperatures there have plummeted, with Dunedin as low as 4degC and Christchurch 10degC and most areas doused in rain or showers.

Police have urged Dunedin residents to be wary of icy road conditions, particularly about the hill suburbs, after MetService warned snow could fall to 200m in the city today, the  reports. A snow warning remained in place for the Northern Motorway (SH1).ODT

Southern trampers and hunters were being asked to rethink any planned trips over the weekend due to avalanche risks.

There was a heavy snow warning in force for inland Marlborough and Canterbury, with potential for snow down to 300m, and a dumping of 15-30cm above 500m.

There was also chance of heavy snow falling above 600m about the central North Island high country including the ranges of Hawke's Bay about the Wairoa District during early Saturday morning.

Road snow warnings were in place today in the North Island for Desert Road (SH 1) and Napier-Taupō Road (SH5), and in the South Island for the alpine passes and the Crown Range Road linking Queenstown and Wanaka.

The better news is the weekend was looking much more settled, although it will be cold.

By Saturday morning, the wintry conditions would gradually ease as a ridge of high pressure over the Tasman Sea slowly drifted on to the country, MetService meteorologist Stephen Glassey said.

"Sunday is also looking more settled for most of the country, but it is going be cold."

The ridge of high pressure was forecast to remain slow moving over the country through to Tuesday next week bringing settled weather, however severe frosts and icy conditions on the roads were expected in sheltered inland places.


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