The wild weekend weather gives way today to lighter winds and clearer skies.

Westerly gales hammered much of the country yesterday, with gusts at Cape Turnagain on the North Island East Coast hitting 195km/h. Wintry blasts brought snow to Dunedin and Southland.

Dunedin's hill suburbs got a dose of the white stuff today as a polar blast swept up the country. Video/Southern Stringers

The fierce winds ripped roofs off sheds in the lower North Island, with the Fire Service responding to 50 calls yesterday morning.

Ski fields in the South Island had fresh dumps of snow, with more forecast this week, NZ ski chief executive Paul Anderson said.

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"Winter has well and truly arrived."

Temperatures in Auckland dropped 5C in just eight minutes to 12C yesterday afternoon as a burst of torrential downpours and gale force winds hit the city.

Forecast

Whangarei

: Today: Cloudy periods, chance morning shower. Westerly eases, late northerly. 17C.

Auckland: Morning cloud and showers, fine breaks in afternoon. 15C.

Hamilton: Cloudy periods, few showers until evening. 14C.

Tauranga: Chance morning shower, otherwise fine. Westerly dies. 15C.

Wellington: A sunny day. Gusty northwesterly easing. 13C.

Christchurch: Mostly sunny with morning frosts. Southwest wind dying out. 11C.

Dunedin : Morning showers, snow about hills, then fine. Strong southwesterlies easing. 9C.