Mild but with a good flurry of memories

A jaw-dropping cirrus and altocumulus sunrise looking down Otago Harbour from Roslyn in 2016....
A jaw-dropping cirrus and altocumulus sunrise looking down Otago Harbour from Roslyn in 2016. Photo: Martyn Fields
While our winter continues to bring not a lot of winter across the region, we can afford to get all nostalgic about snow — without the hassles of having to cope with it.

1957 snow

David Strang, of Wanaka, rang with his theory of why the July 1957 snow was so heavy and lasted so long on the hills and across Central Otago.

"Weather was my hobby. I kept thermometers in a box, all properly done, for myself. I wanted to become a meteorologist but you needed a degree in maths or physics.

"From memory it had been a frosty winter, with good ice up in Central and good snow also. So when the storm came it was likely it was going to be a bad storm, as the snow was falling on cold, dry ground already, and the snow gathered deeply.

"In Abbotsford, where I lived, it could often be very wet underneath when it started to snow and it tended not to settle very well. But it was dry and cold this time and the snow really built up.

"After the snowfall it was frosty at night and sunny all day for quite a while, so the snow that fell up on the Dunedin hills wasn’t melting, where it was three weeks I think before it disappeared altogether. That was the longest period of snow that lasted in my time.

"I was at King’s High School, so we had good views looking back at Mount Cargill and Flagstaff and so on, and there was a lot of snow across them.

"It snowed over the weekend, but we got no time off school because what was there melted pretty quickly by Monday morning. I think it was a lot heavier in town — the city itself seemed to get a lot more."

Murray Proctor, of Mosgiel, also remembers the snow clearly, as a Mataura Primary  pupil.

"From Eastern Southland we were going to Alex[andra] for ice skating. On the state highway between Gore and Raes Junction, at Whites Hill, there were snow drifts two-metres deep on the side of the road after the grader had been through.

"The other thing I remember is, at the S-bend on the hill, the bus from Invercargill taking people ice skating had slid down the bank due to the camber on the road.

"We definitely don’t seem to get the snow like we used to. Also in those days there seemed to be more wind with it; that’s why we got the big drifts."

‘‘There is no real story,’’ Wayne Alexander says, ‘‘other than when I saw the cobwebs glinting in...
‘‘There is no real story,’’ Wayne Alexander says, ‘‘other than when I saw the cobwebs glinting in the sun I thought the opportunity was too good to pass. ‘Waiting for Spring’ was the first title that came into my head.’’ Photo: Wayne Alexander
1978 snow

Fast forward almost 21 years to another big snow, one I remember clearly.

It was the last week of June. The snowy southerly arrived on the Monday, June 26, and, unusually, lasted much of the week. In Christchurch there was not only snow across several days, but a fairly significant earthquake one evening at the same time as a heavy flurry in the midst of a thunderstorm.

Diane Bennett, of Balclutha, wrote in after checking her diary for that bitter week. Here are some of the entries from their rolling hill and river-flat farm at Te Houka:"On the 26th, my husband and I fed out, then Ian flew to Hamilton with his brother.

"The next day I kept children aged  9, 7 and 6 home from school, snow showers all day.

"My neighbour Peter arrived and we fed out to the animals, oblong bales to open and throw out slabs from 8.30am till 1pm. Then went on push bike to collect the mail, fed chooks and horses.

"On the 28th, Rosebank School now closed. Peter here at 10am, we fed stock till pm , then Ian arrived home — just managed to get car up our steep hill and then did a stock round to be satisfied, children out sledging, "At bedtime still snowing, another 4 to 5 inches.

"On the 29th, more snow, 4 to 5 inches. Ian up and down road on tractor, so his brother could come and take cattle to the local freezing works. Children all built snowmen etc, then late pm I drove into Balclutha for groceries.

"The 30th — Ian took children to school, snow still lying on the hills.

"1st July  — snow gone."

More on fettling

Whoever would have thought fettling might turn out to be such a hot topic?

John Mabon, of Queenstown, wants to expand further on David McLeod’s explanation of fettling from earlier in the week.

"Having worked at the railway workshops for a number of years, including the foundry, I think you’ll find that the smell is burnt molasses or, in other words, treacle.

"It was used to bind the moulding sand, so naturally when the molten metal was poured, it burnt the treacle. Hence the smell."


Thank you for all the wonderful cloud photos you have sent in. They’re all good enough to go in a book, I reckon.

We’ve pretty much exhausted this subject for now, with the exception of a couple of crackers which I’ll share with you next week.

Have a great weekend.

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