Black ice worst in decades

Winter is continuing its icy grip, with hard frosts again in the South this morning, including the Queenstown and Central Otago areas and parts of Dunedin.

A perfect storm of rain and freezing temperatures in Otago and Southland at the weekend made for some of the most treacherous driving conditions in decades.

NZTA on Monday advised motorists to take extreme care on icy roads throughout Otago, Queenstown, Southland and the West Coast.

From mid-morning they included: SH85 Palmerston to Kyeburn,  SH1 Palmerston to Balclutha,  SH87 Kyeburn to Mosgiel, SH90 Raes Junction to Mcnab, SH8 Clarksville To Raes Junction and SH80 Aoraki Mount Cook National Park to Ben Ohau. 

Fog was reported in Queenstown and Central Otago this morning, and was particularly “thick and wet” in the Cromwell area, the local council said. Motorists should drive to the conditions and keep a safe following distance.

The MetService was forecasting freezing temperatures to continue. Temperatures were between -1degC and -5degC in Central Otago, and other inland areas this morning. Mt Cook was -7degC.

Snow was forecast to 200m in Otago on Tuesday.

Treacherous conditions

Police responded to more than 40 crashes across the South and warned drivers to stay off the roads on Saturday morning and last night. Police put out warnings about Southland, Central Otago and the Waitaki last night.

The coldest temperature recorded by the MetService was -6.3degC in Alexandra on Saturday morning.

Lawrence Volunteer Fire Brigade Chief Fire Officer Rory Tisdall said driving conditions were at the ''most extreme'' on Saturday morning.

''I have been in the Lawrence brigade for 24 years and the conditions over this weekend were the most serious I've seen,'' Mr Tisdall said.

On Saturday, temperatures of about -6degC in places, combined with rain about 6am, created the ''perfect storm'' for severe black ice, he said.

''The conditions were unusual due to the rain and the refrosting of that rain, creating the perfect ice sheet on the roads that caught many motorists unaware.''

Conditions were better yesterday, but still dangerous.

The most serious of the crashes he attended involved a van, which rolled after hitting ice on SH8 near the Beaumont Hotel and Holiday Park about 10.30am on Saturday.

The van was being used by Green Island Football Club's premier team to get to a game in Queenstown and teenager Matt Milton was airlifted to hospital after suffering serious ''crush injuries'' to his hand, shoulder and leg in the crash. The game with Queenstown was called off.

Club president Jeremy Bray said Mr Milton had received surgery at Dunedin Hospital and would probably be out injured for the rest of the season, but was expected to make a recovery.

Sergeant Brent Kingsland, of Invercargill, said the same conditions had caused ''havoc'' in Southland and it was ''very lucky'' there were no serious injuries.

''There were vehicle crashes all over the show,'' Sgt Kingsland said.

He had worked in Invercargill for 16 years and the icy conditions were the worst he had seen.

Police in Southland attended about 28 crashes on Saturday.

Even people driving cautiously struggled once they hit black ice and some ended up slipping off the road or rolling.

In Queenstown a man who was clocked at 179kmh in Gibbston on Saturday was charged with driving at a dangerous speed.

Acting Senior Sergeant Jared Kirk said the 40-year-old was caught speeding in a 100kmh zone on State Highway 6, near Victoria Flats Rd, about 3.25pm.

The man had his licence suspended immediately, and will appear in the Queenstown District Court on July 24.

''There is still black ice and loose grit across many of our roads, so to hear of driving behaviour like this is extremely disappointing. It's clear the message is not getting through to some drivers.''

-Additional reporting by staff reporters

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