A group of snowed-in students became the third search-and-rescue mission in a week, as Hawke's Bay braces for snow, hail and gale-force winds today.
The six students from Auckland University Tramping Club had set out on a four-day tramp in the Kaweka Range, north of Napier, but heavy snow trapped their cars and prevented departure from Makahu Saddle on Friday afternoon.
The group contacted police and decided they would stay in a Department of Conservation hut on Friday night to wait out the poor weather. By Saturday afternoon, a decision had been made for the police search and rescue team to retrieve the visiting trampers.
Police Senior Constable Alan Daly said DoC staff and a local farmer assisted with the rescue. Heavy vehicles including a tractor and four-wheel drive trucks, one with a blade on the front was used to clear snow off the road in order to reach the students.
"There were about six people, all students from an Auckland tramping club. They were fine, in good spirits, and we probably got them out about 4pm [Saturday]."
Mr Daly said the students were taken to Napier and he expected they would return to Auckland.
They would have to organise when they could retrieve their cars, through DoC, at a later time.
He said parents of the students began calling emergency services when they learnt the trampers weren't coming home when expected. It was a timely reminder for people to check the long-range forecast before "they go into the bush".
"So far we've had three incidents where people haven't checked the weather; two groups became stranded by the snow and another car which became stranded when it tried to cross a ford.
"Also, their cars were inappropriate for the type of terrain they were dealing with."
Mr Daly said the weather was fine when the students began their tramp but people need to look "beyond a few days".
"... and if it is rough, take the safe option and stay away. Snowed-in students
a warning to others
More weather pictures, p30Otherwise you're putting your life in danger and the lives of those who come to rescue you."
The club's captain Harriet Peel said the group had contacted police, family and the club promptly after discovering their vehicles were snowed in.
"They had plenty of emergency food and supplies, as is standard on all such trips, and were never in danger. They spent one additional night at a hut a short distance from their vehicles before being taken to Napier the next day."
The Metservice forecast indicated today was likely to feature the coldest temperature for the Hawke's Bay region so far this winter.
Forecaster Liz Walsh said the day would kick off with snow down to 300m early this morning when temperatures would be at the lowest, with a predicted 2C for Napier.
"There will be showery regimes with some heavy rain turning to hail. Cold southerlies will continue but ease during the afternoon. After that we're looking at a high pressure building, getting everything out of the way towards the end of the week. For Hawke's Bay it's certainly going to clear on Tuesday with southerlies continuing on Wednesday and Thursday."
The fine weather would be accompanied with "frosty mornings and blue winter skies".
Wairoa district recorded the largest rainfall over the weekend, including 109mm in the Wharerata Ranges, and was expected to receive another 50mm to 70mm of rain between 4pm yesterday and 4am today. Hastings recorded 114mm of rainfall in the past 30 days with significant falls from July 10 to 13, the largest in one day was 40mm on July 10. Napier recorded 163mm in the past 30 days with a similar pattern to Hastings.