Wintry blast continues to batter South Island

The heavy snow made for a treacherous access road to Chard Farm, so staff Tomika Terry and Irene...
Snow made for a treacherous access road to Chard Farm, so staff Tomika Terry and Irene Tozzi paired the white with a red. They are next to Lola, a sculpture of a woman on a bicycle created by local artist Lee van der Geest. PHOTO: JESSIE DENG
A little snowman stands sentry duty in Oban. PHOTO: NIK HURRING
A little snowman stands sentry duty in Oban. PHOTO: NIK HURRING

Wintry weather resulted in cancelled flights, suspended bus operations, road closures, stranded motorists and traffic congestion across Canterbury, Otago and Southland yesterday.

Today will be much the same, as more snow, high winds and cold temperatures are expected. State Highway 7 Lewis Pass remains closed due to snow this morning and SH73 Arthur's Pass is open but closed to towing vehicles. Chains are essential for travel on this pass.

MetService forecasters say there will be more scattered snow showers, particularly overnight and this morning. Snow has been reported across the region today, including in parts of Dunedin.

A heavy snow warning has been issued for Southland south of Riversdale, Stewart Island and Clutha south of Clinton. A heavy snow watch has been issued for Dunedin, Clutha north of Clinton, Central Otago south of Alexandra and Southland north of Riversdale.

Dunedin and Clutha areas are also on a strong wind watch until 3pm today.

Most southern highways are open this morning but the NZ Transport Agency has cautions in place for several sections. State Highway 93 (Clinton-Mataura),  SH96 (Ohai-Wreys Bush) and SH94 (Milford Road) are both closed owing to snow.

  • Check southern highway conditions here

The Clutha District Council says snow has settled to low levels across its network overnight, and it advises all road users to exercise "extreme caution".

Near Queenstown, the Crown Range Road is closed, and the Queenstown Lakes District Council says many roads are icy. In an update the council said the Crown Range Road would open at 7.30 but motorists would need to carry chains.

In Central Otago Moa Flat Rd is closed and the Danseys Pass road is restricted to 4WD vehicles.

Dunedin Airport and Queenstown Airport are both advising that some services are delayed or cancelled this morning, owing to the "extreme weather". 

  • Check Dunedin Airport here
  • Check Queenstown Airport here

Yesterday, Air New Zealand and Jetstar cancelled or diverted all flights into Queenstown before 3pm, when the snow was cleared.

An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said passengers were booked on to later flights.

A Jetstar spokesman said customers were offered travel on the next available flight at no additional cost or given a voucher.

Cardrona Alpine Resort recorded more than 40cm of snow — but had to close because of strong winds.

Mercure Hotel general manager Prasheel Churi said the effect on the Fernhill business was mixed, with a few cancellations from those unable to fly in, but some extensions from guests unable to flight out.

Orbus Queenstown was heavily disrupted, with the service to Lake Hayes and from Arthurs Point to Arrowtown both suspended for most of the day.

Central Otago escaped the brunt of the polar blast overnight, with towns throughout the region waking to a dusting of snow on the ranges.

Andrew Paterson, of Matakanui Station, said he had both early lambs and calves "on the ground" in 1cm-2cm of snow.

"It’s not ideal. We’ve had more winter in spring than we’ve had all winter."

He praised forecasters.

"We had plenty of warning and that makes planning a bit easier."

Ross Paterson, from Waikaka Station in Eastern Southland, said his farm turned white after heavy snow started falling at 9.30am.

"It is what it is — there is nothing we can do about it."

It was the wind, which had started to pick up by yesterday afternoon, that did the main damage, he said.

For orchadists the concern overnight was the potential for frost, and most were preparing to frost-fight until this morning.

Motorists were warned to be cautious when using roads across the district.

A minor crash on Gorge Hill, on State Highway94, caused trouble for some motorists in the morning as, when vehicles stopped for the crash, the snow began.

A NZ Transport Agency spokesman said there was minimal damage and no injuries.

"As there were no vehicles passing over the road, this queue built up quite quickly."

There were about 40 in total.

"The road then needed to be ploughed to allow the stranded/stuck vehicles to continue, so, as a result, the road was closed."

Nik Hurring, of Dunedin, had the first day of her holiday on Stewart Island interrupted by the snow which settled on the beach.

"Locals have told us it was the heaviest snowfall over here in 35 years."






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