Hundreds of lightning strikes, monster waves on way as wild weather hits

Don't be fooled by today's sunny weather - winter is on the way.

MetService is warning of a cold outbreak spreading across New Zealand in the lead-up to this weekend.

Temperatures will fall across the country as strong, cool southwesterly winds race north, spreading showers, thunderstorms, and snow into many areas.

"Frosty mornings are likely inland, while dangerous waves lash many coastal regions," MetService meteorologist Ashlee Parkes said.

"Numerous severe weather watches and warnings are already in place as several cold fronts originating from the Southern Ocean spread heavy rain and gale force winds across southern and central New Zealand.

"The heaviest rain is forecast for the western South Island, with an Orange Heavy Rain Warning in place for Fiordland and Westland, and a Watch in place for Buller and the headwaters of the Canterbury lakes."

Alongside the heavy rain is a risk of thunderstorms for western and southern regions, she said.

"These thunderstorms also come with a risk of downpours, hail, and damaging winds.

"In the two hours leading up to 9.07am this morning, 1585 lightning strikes were recorded across our lightning network and is a taster of what is to come.

"This cold outbreak is also bringing strong or possibly gale winds to central and southeastern Aotearoa, which will add to the chill in the air.

"We have Strong Wind Watches in place for Wellington, Wairarapa, Marlborough, the Canterbury High Country, as well as Otago and Southland."

It is likely severe gale southwesterlies will affect eastern parts of Otago and coastal Southland during Saturday and Sunday.

She said snow was forecast to relatively low levels for some regions of both the North and South Island.

"This will be the lowest snow many have seen so far this year.

"Snow is currently forecast to about 400m in Southland and Otago, but a bit higher farther north in Canterbury High Country, with a snow level of about 800 metres."

Snowfall was not expected to meet warning criteria at this stage, but could affect higher roads and bring stress to livestock across parts of the South Island.

Road Snowfall Warnings are in place for some South Island alpine passes for both today and tomorrow, including the Crown Range Rd and the Milford Rd.

She said the wild weather was not just forecast over the land.

Large swell waves and dangerous coastal conditions were expected around much of the country.

Western coastal regions of both islands could see combined waves of six metres tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday, with large waves spreading up the eastern South Island during Sunday.

"There is lots of stormy weather across Aotearoa over the coming days. We strongly recommend people keep up to date with the latest forecast on the MetService website."

MetService meteorologist Angus Hines earlier warned of "very heavy swells" about the coast.

"The western coastline first hit by large waves on Friday ... with 6-8m waves forecast for South Island coasts."

Boaties near Foveaux Strait are being warned of high swells, poor visibility and "very rough" seas between Thursday and Saturday, before easing on Sunday.

"Large swell waves and dangerous coastal conditions are expected in the western marine areas of both the North and South Island from Thursday," MetService said.

 - additional reporting NZ Herald



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