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Heavy rain warnings are in place for Canterbury, Westland, Fiordland, Central Otago and Southland.
MetService reported 734 lightening strikes in Westland and Buller over the last 12 hours, with more expected today.
A large slow-moving low centred south of the country is expected to bring an unstable west to southwest air-mass over the South Island.
In Queenstown and Wanaka, summer hit pause, with a healthy dusting of snow falling as temperatures plunged.
For western Nelson, Buller, Westland, Fiordland and southern Southland (including the near the main divide of the Southern Alps), there is a moderate to high risk of thunderstorms during the morning.
The thunderstorms are likely to bring heavy rain, hail and strong winds gusting 80 to 100km/h.
There is also a low risk of thunderstorms for the south of the North Island, as well as other areas from the Marlborough Sounds to Dunedin and Southland.
The risk of thunderstorms is considered moderate from Whanganui to Horowhenua.
Northwest gales are also expected in the Wairarapa and are forcecast to be severe at times. Gusts may reach 130 km/h in exposed places, with the MetService warning of potential damage to trees, powerlines and unsecured structures.
It warned that driving may be hazardous, especially for high-sided vehicles and motorcycles.
A strong wind warning is also place for the Hawke's Bay south of Hastings and the Tararua district, where northwest winds may approach severe gale in exposed places at time.