More snow, heavy rain for North Island

More snow and heavy rain was set to fall on Friday as the North Island remained in the grip of a bone-chilling storm.

Thousands of households were without power on Friday and roads across the central North Island were covered in snow.

About 500 people were snowed in at the Skotel Alpine Resort and Chateau Tongariro.

Horizons Regional Council emergency operation centre controller Craig Grant said palets of food were being transported from Turangi, which local iwi will help unload.

"Throughout the region, we encourage people to check on their friends, families, neighbours, and animals, and share resources wherever possible. Our rural communities will be feeling particularly isolated," Mr Grant said.

"There will continue to be a great deal of water around, and for now we can't say how the snow will contribute to this once it starts melting. Our duty teams will be in place over the weekend."

Air passengers across the country were experiencing major disruptions, and scores of people were forced to sleep overnight in the Wellington Airport terminal.

Public transport in the capital was still hampered by stormy weather with all ferry sailings across the harbour suspended.

On Friday morning, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) appealed to motorists to keep off central region roads until they were safe to travel on.

Wellington  was mopping up after a night of heavy rain, and slips and flooding were causing problems throughout the region.

The MetService was forecasting up to 30cm of snow across the Central Plateau, Hawke's Bay and Gisborne ranges for 12 hours from Friday morning.

Police say the southern Wairarapa township of Martinborough had been largely cut off by flooding, though the NZTA said there was still one road out.

Waterlogged central and eastern regions of the island could also expect more rain on Friday, and forecasters warned it would be heavy.

"Above about 800m we expect further accumulation of snow especially about the Desert Rd - a further 20-30cm of snow, " MetService lead forecaster Michael Martens said.

He said the worst had now passed over the capital.

Some highways across the central North Island are not expected to reopen until later on Friday. Porters Pass is the only South Island alpine highway still under a road snow warning.

Emergency welfare centres across the Ruapehu District would reopen on Friday and council officials would be moving through townships to make sure people were safe and had basic needs.

Powerco said several thousand customers went without power last night after heavy snowfalls downed lines and flooding created havoc across the company's network.

Powerco network operations manager Phil Marsh said damage was spread across a large area of the lower North Island including Wairarapa, Manawatu, Whanganui, Taranaki, Ohakune, Waiouru and Taihape. Crews were trying to repair the broken network.

NZTA asked motorists for a second day running to only travel if it was urgent. The only routes linking Auckland to Wellington was around the edges of the island.

Staff and equipment from the upper North Island had been called in to clear roads.

Motorists were advised to slow down and watch for slips and rockfalls triggered by melting snow.

Snow warnings in the South Island had now been lifted as snow showers eased, while strong winds warnings had been lifted for Kapiti and Whanganui in the North Island.


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