Polar blast: Cold chills set to ease

The bitterly cold snap that has brought snow and freezing conditions to many places is set to ease today, with warmer temperatures and clearer skies expected across the country.

Inland Canterbury and Otago residents will be waking up to a frosty morning and temperatures of -5C or colder in some places, with sleet and wintry conditions likely on the eastern coast of island, MetService duty forecaster Daniel Corbett told TV3's Firstline.

However, the worst of the cold snap was over.

"The core of the cold air that was helping to generate these very heavy showers that is now sitting across central New Zealand but it is moving east. So the meat of what has been this ugly cold three-day wintry blast is now moving east," he said.

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The last of the snow flurries would clear today, making way for warmer, calmer weather, said MetService.

Forecaster Mike O'Connor said temperatures were rising for the bottom of the South Island so after this morning there would be no snow showers.

"It's still pretty chilly but starting to warm up as that cold air mass moves off."

For Dunedin and Christchurch, strong southwesterlies and scattered showers were expected to clear by dawn, with highs today reaching 13C in Christchurch and 11C in Dunedin.

In Wellington, snow flurries were possible on the Rimutaka Hill Rd early this morning. Southerlies would remain strong through the morning, although the capital would be five degrees warmer than yesterday's chilly high of just 8C.

In Auckland, southwesterlies would remain gusty but would ease during the day. The high was expected to be 15C.

WeatherWatch analyst Richard Green said the short, cold snap could be a hint of things to come for winter.

"Some snowfall totals in the south were impressive and eastern regions might have only got a small taster but for some people that was enough."

Live updates: Polar blast

Senior Sergeant Steve Aitken said roads were expected to freeze and "could be treacherous" for motorists, who were being warned to take extreme care.

Dozens of motorists had to abandon stranded or damaged vehicles yesterday.

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) closed some state highways yesterday due to weather conditions. Dunedin's Northern Motorway was reopened at 4.30pm, much to the relief of the backlog of motorists.

Dunedin City Council roading maintenance engineer Peter Standring said there was limited gritting of Dunedin roads yesterday, with a focus on sweeping and clearing roads.

However, contractors were on stand-by with de-icing agent CMA, grit and sweeping trucks.

State Highway 4 between Erua and Manunui, the Desert Road and State Highway 49 between Ratihi and Ohakune are closed due to snow.

North of Wellington, the Rimutaka Hill on State Highway 2 has reopened after being closed due to snow.

Temperatures forecast for Wednesday:

Auckland: Low 5, high 15
Hamilton: Low 2, high 12
Wellington: Low 6, high 13
Christchurch: Low 1, high 13
Dunedin: Low 4, high 11
Invercargill: Low 4, high 12

- APNZ with Otago Daily Times

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