Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

Some warmth heading our way

Experts say winter temperatures will be above average but will not rule out more numbing icy blasts

Skiers on the Remarkables skifield chairlift near Queenstown.
Skiers on the Remarkables skifield chairlift near Queenstown.

Surprisingly, winter is on track to be warmer than average although experts will not rule out more bitter icy blasts.

The predictions come at the tail end of the destructive winter storm which gave storm-battered Wellington further headaches yesterday.

Heavy rain caused slips, surface flooding and leaky roofs and about 1,200 households were still without power last night.

A landslip in Dunedin forced a brief evacuation of 11 houses and volunteer firefighters sand-bagged about 50 flood-threatened properties in Leeston in mid-Canterbury.

Amongst the dreadful conditions, some good news emerged. Three Winton hunters feared lost in a snowed-out central Otago valley were found safe.

They were rescued in a daring helicopter mission yesterday after they were discovered in a hut at Lake Onslow in Millers Flat.

Queenstown's Remarkables ski area also opened yesterday to near perfect conditionsfor 1500 skiers and boardersto hit the snow at 9am. During the morning 4cm of additional snow fell, adding to the 110cm at the upper mountain base.

The air force stepped in to help a weather-stranded NZ Symphony Orchestra.

Wild weather stranded the NZSO in Wellington on Friday, forcing the cancellation of their performance of The Planets at the Auckland Town Hall.

But their performance of Verdi's Requiem was saved after the air force flew the orchestra from Wellington to Auckland.

Despite the chaotic weather, experts agree this winter will be warmer than usual.

Niwa's chief atmosphere scientist, Dr Murray Poulter, said every winter has severe storms, but overall temperatures across New Zealand would be slightlyup this winter.

"There will still be these events - the southerlies that come through and give us the snow storms in pretty much the same way they do every year. But overall, for the next three months or so, it will be slightly warmer than average."

WeatherWatch analyst Philip Duncan said conditions were typical of a "chaotic weather pattern".

"You can have a winter storm and you can have a subtropical low all within two weeks of each other - and that's really what we've been seeing for the last couple of months.

"For the rest of winter, there's still the chance that we'll get another one of these big systems."

In Wellington, many cleaned up after the storm yesterday as some in the coastal community of Makara faced a third night without power.

David Wutzler's family kept warm in front of a wood fire but he said if the power was not back soon all the food in their freezer would spoil.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said crews battled "miserable and dangerous conditions" to restore power.

Roads were treacherous with warnings on highways in the central North Island and the South Island.

- APNZ

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