Polar blast: Icy gales set to hit Auckland

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The wild weather is set to continue - the fierce and freezing polar blast that has caused havoc in the South Island will bring icy, gale-force winds to Auckland and Northland today and there is still a chance of snow on the Hunua Ranges.

South Island motorists were rescued from roads blocked by up to 40cm of snow, flooding closed schools and caused homes to be evacuated, flights were cancelled and residents stocked up on supplies as an Antarctic weather system travelled up the country.

MetService severe weather forecaster Chris Noble said there could be more hail and thunder in Auckland this morning, but warned the wind would cause the most problems. "Those winds will turn around to the southwest and will probably pick up before dawn. They could be problematic, with gusts getting up to the 120km/h mark. They could damage trees and powerlines as well."

Aucklanders can expect a top temperature of 10C today but the wind chill will make it feel colder.

Heavy snowfall warnings were lifted for Southland and Otago last night but remained in place - along with rain warnings - for parts of Canterbury and Marlborough. Severe gale south or southeasterlies were expected to continue from Fiordland to Nelson, Marlborough and Wellington, and gale-force westerlies up to 130km/h were also expected in Northland and Auckland until later today.

"For northern New Zealand and quite a lot of the North Island we have a change from a northwest showery day, with thunderstorms to strong cold southwesterlies that will spread right across the North Island. The wind around the Auckland area is going to turn around and have a period of very strong southwesterlies that will slowly ease during the day."

Cold, strong winds would add to showery periods but gradually improve this afternoon, he said.

WeatherWatch head analyst Philip Duncan said: "There is a chance that we might see a little bit of snow mainly on the Hunua Ranges for a very light dusting down to about 500m or 600m."

- NZ Herald

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