Snow closes Haast Pass

Snow has closed the Haast Pass in the South Island tonight as a cold snap begins to bite.

The New Zealand Transport Agency advised that State Highway 6 (Makarora-Haast Pass) had closed about 7.25pm.

MetService is warning of snow to 300m in inland Otago, north of Wanaka and Naseby this evening.

A MetService spokesman said heavy falls were also likely above 500m, and snow amounts may approach warning criteria. A heavy snow watch was now in force for these areas.

He said a cold front was expected to move up the South Island this afternoon and continue to early tomorrow morning, bringing significant snow from northern Otago to the Kaikoura Ranges.

Much of the South Island could expect cold, wet and windy weather today - particularly Invercargill and Gore, which were forecast to reach a high of just 8degC.

He said there was already snow on the passes in the South Island, but today the weather would be more severe.

On the Lindis Pass (State Highway 8), up to 3cm of snow may settle on the road above 800m, with lesser amounts to 500m, between 4pm and 10pm today.

Up to 3cm is expected above 600m on the Crown Range Road between noon today and midnight.

Up to 4cm was expected on the Milford Road (SH94) last night and more was forecast from late this morning to early evening, he said.

Meanwhile, the North Island can expect to see the effects of this cold front by early tomorrow morning, with rain reaching the central part of the island by then.

MetService meteorologist Phillipa Murdoch said a band of rain that brought showers in and around Auckland and Waikato overnight was already weakening.

"We're not expecting too much for the rest of the day for Auckland.

"But for other places, yes - we are expecting more rain or showers that will become more widespread this evening around Waikato down to Wellington.''

MetService meteorologist Andrew James said the wild weather would begin this afternoon in the South Island with a front dropping temperatures close to zero, dumping snow across the ranges.

James said there was "high confidence" of severe west to southwest gales – over 85km/h, with gusts even higher – from Northland, Auckland to Taranaki and eastwards to East Cape early tomorrow. Exposed parts of Wellington, Marlborough and Kaikōura would also be affected.

Widespread showers and periods of heavy rain across the North Island were also forecast ahead of the front tomorrow.

The Auckland region would see southwesterly winds and some showers today, before both the wind and rain picked up rapidly on Wednesday morning.

The North Island's west coast would also see southwest swells in excess of 5m, James said.

"This is going to be quite a significant event. On land we are warning people to take precaution from the high winds, don't leave anything loose outside. And at sea there are going to be some very large swells."

Weatherwatch NZ said ocean swells could produce waves in excess of 9m in places, driven by "hurricane-force winds" at times.

"This makes for dangerous marine and beach conditions along the western side of the country, in particular the western side of the North Island which is more exposed to this set-up.

"There will be rogue waves that may go higher too - so a warning in particular to Aucklanders who fish on the western rocks: this isn't a safe week to do so.

"It's not a safe week for boaties anywhere in the eastern Tasman Sea area or Cook Strait."

 - additional reporting NZ Herald

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