Tornadoes are next, forecasters predict

By Alanah Eriksen, Alanah May Eriksen

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Tornadoes could hit the North Island today as gale-force winds and heavy rain sweeps the country.

Chilly southerly winds laced snow, sleet, hail and rain across the bulk of the South Island yesterday causing slips, closing roads and shutting schools.

Most of the rain squalls moved up into the Taranaki and Wanganui regions last night bringing thunder, hail and a moderate risk of small isolated tornadoes, Radio Network's head weather analyst Philip Duncan said.

Another aggressive front, attacking most North Island regions and western parts of the South Island, will spread up the country this afternoon and evening with hail, gale-force winds and small, but potentially destructive, tornadoes expected to hit the area.

MetService weather ambassador Bob McDavitt said stronger gales could hit exposed places such as the Manawatu Gorge and the Tararua district and Golden Bay in Southland.

The squally westerly winds, accompanied by heavy rain, are expected to last through to the weekend.

The MetService warned that the winds had the potential to damage trees, powerlines and roofs, and would make driving difficult, especially for large vehicles and motorcycles.

Yesterday, Auckland and New Plymouth started seeing gusts of up to 120km/h.

Boaties were being warned of gale-force winds for Manukau and Waitemata harbours, Hauraki Gulf and Bream Head to Cape Colville.

Mt Ruapehu's two skifields Whakapapa and Turoa, which recorded 25cm of snow fall overnight, were closed and the Desert Road - which passes the mountain - between Rangipo and Waiouru, was closed.

All other skifields, except Mt Hutt in Canterbury, were closed as well.

Police last night reduced the speed limit on the Auckland Harbour Bridge from 100km/h to 60km/h due to high winds. Inspector Gary Hill, of the northern communications centre, asked motorists to avoid travelling over the bridge where possible saying winds could knock a person off their motorcycle.

The AA website reported yesterday that SH93 between Clinton and Mataura and SH60 from Riwaka to upper Takaka were closed due to snow.

Snow also closed SH94 between Te Anau and Milford from 5pm and it was expected to be closed all of today.

Mr McDavitt said people who needed to travel this week should check weather forecasts and warnings along with the road conditions.

Snow forced four Southland schools to close.

- Imogen Neale and NZPA

- NZ Herald

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