Help on way to Hawke's Bay homes cut off by snow

By Staff Reporters

Communities and farmers on the snow covered Taupo Plains are being warned to expect to be without power for more than a week.

But relief at last for stranded motorists heading through the central North Island as the Desert Rd reopened for the first time in days.

Unison today said its network had been devastated by the weekend's wild weather with 200 poles broken, twisted and buried under a metre of snow.

Heavy snowfalls across central North Island has created havoc with the power grid - here power line in the Taupo Plains district have been affected. Photo / Supplied
Heavy snowfalls across central North Island has created havoc with the power grid - here power line in the Taupo Plains district have been affected. Photo / Supplied

The electricity company was now trying to phone everyone affected by the widespread regional power outage and liaising closely with authorities as animal welfare issues started to become an issue.

Moves were being made to work with the Rangitaiki School to bring in a generator to pump water from the bore for the community.

Snow on the road near Boundary Stream scenic reserve north of Tutira, Hawke's Bay. Photo / Warren Buckland
Snow on the road near Boundary Stream scenic reserve north of Tutira, Hawke's Bay. Photo / Warren Buckland

It said the rural district was likely to be powerless for longer than a week.

"This is the worst damage we have seen in 10 years and it's going to take some time to fix the network devastation.

"We are liaising with Rangitaiki School to get a generator in there so we can get pump water from the bore for the community, trying to make direct phone contact with you all, and continuing to liaise with Civil Defence, Federated Farmers, Dairy NZ and Rural Support Services. "

Unison planned to hold a community meeting at the Rangitaiki Tavern tomorrow for a full briefing on the damage.

Meanwhile a team from civil defence has headed into snowbound farming communities in the Hawke's Bay isolated since Saturday to reach those who have been without power since Saturday morning.

A number of dairy farms have become the main priority of the reconnaissance mission.

Hawke's Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management group controller Ian Macdonald said they were working with road authorities, power and telecommunications companies to identify which areas were impacted and where help was needed.

Staff were also liaising with the rural support networks to identify specific issues.

"So far it appears those affected are coping well, however we are aware there are a number of dairy farms that have had no power since Friday and they are a priority."

Macdonald said getting to the area still affected by the weekend's heavy snow dump was proving to be a challenge.

They were expected to report back later in the day on how the communities were coping and what was needed.

The Hastings District Council said the Napier to Taihape Rd would not reopen until tomorrow while there was no indication how long the Napier to Taupo highway would remain closed.

With the big chill far from over, MetService is warning a cold and frosty start across New Zealand again tomorrow.

Desert Road looking beautiful covered in snow. Photo / NZTA
Desert Road looking beautiful covered in snow. Photo / NZTA

Last night the country shivered through sub-zero temperatures with Mt Cook airport dipping to -14.1C and the Desert Rd -8.4C. The Desert Rd remains closed.

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Forecaster April Clark said east coast regions stretching from Gisborne down to Wairarapa would get more snow today. It would fall as low as 500m in the Wairarapa and down to 700m in the Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay.

Snow flurries were also expected on the Rimutaka Hill Rd today. Black ice had already caused a number of accidents on the Silverstream bridge in Upper Hutt this morning.

Roads in Central Otago were also treacherous with severe black ice on State Highway 8 between Northburn and Alexandra and on the Kawarau Gorge.



Light snow was now falling in the Ranfurly Naseby area and police warned drivers to take care travelling throughout the region.

Snow showers were also forecast to fall on Christchurch in the hills today.

Clark said there was a possibility snow would continue falling in eastern regions of the North Island for the next few days.

She said the cool air was turning rain to snow in the high country and showers were forecast for the next few days.

Civil Defence staff would attempt to reach homes north of Napier cut off by the weekend storm to see how well people were coping and find out what help was needed.

About 400 properties across the Taupo Plains and parts of Hawke's Bay remain without power. Unison said today crews were focused on restoring power where access allowed and helping the isolated Taupo Plains community get through this next week without power. The network said around 200 poles were brought down by the wild weather and were now buried under a metre of snow.

Teams now had to wait for the snow to melt or be cleared before any work to restore power could start.

Customers were being urged to make alternative arrangements where they could as well as reaching out to wider support of family and friends.

This morning it was bad news for travellers stuck by central North Island road closures with the transport agency saying the snowlogged Napier-Taupo Rd would not be open before 3pm.

Both the Desert Rd, the Napier to Taupo Rd and the road between Waikaremoana and Murupara would remain closed all day.

State Highway 2 north of Gisborne was icy but open and the highway between Napier and Wairoa was also open but motorists were warned to take care.

Those who sat out the weekend blizzard were rewarded with a pristine start to the day on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu.

Niwa forecaster Ben Noll said a crisp -9.8C at the Chateau was the coldest morning recorded in over 25 years.


The coldest temperature since last winter was recorded yesterday with Takahe Valley waking to a frigid -17.8C.

The weekend's big chill also saw Queenstown shivering through its second coldest August minimum since records began in 1871, reaching a crisp -7C.

And on Sunday Invercargill had its third coldest August minimum since records began in 1904, reaching -6C.

More than three month's worth of rain fell at the weekend in Tutira, northern Hawke's Bay. Noll said a remarkable 259.8 mm fell in 48 hours when the total rainfall since May had been 251.4 mm.

New Zealand last night hunkered down for the big chill. On Saturday rugby fans faced sub-zero temperatures at the Super Rugby final and skiers on Mt Ruapehu took refuge from hurricane-force winds.

This morning a large slip had come down across State Highway 2 East in the Bay of Plenty 4km south of Taneautua.

Police expected the road to be closed until at least midday.

Snow near Taupo yesterday. Photo / Thomas Richardson
Snow near Taupo yesterday. Photo / Thomas Richardson

The Desert Rd remains closed, and so was the Napier-Taupo Rd (SH5). Some trucks have been stranded on SH5 since Friday night and many motorists were yesterday facing detours of up to five hours.

Long time Taupo resident and amateur weatherman Walter de Bont said Saturday was the coldest day he had recorded since 1962.

"It was the most snow I've ever seen in Taupo and we have also had a lot of rain with 39mm in the last 24 hours.

"Saturday was also the coldest day ever recorded with a maximum not higher than 3.4C, and that is cold."

NZTA warned motorists to take care in the central and lower North Island as roads continue to be heavily impacted by snow, flooding and road closures.

'We are reminding motorists to the drive to the conditions with rain, cool temperatures and the possibility of snow still contributing to challenging driving conditions," said NZTA highway manager Neil Walker.

Heavy rain caused a slip on Breakwater Rd closing the Napier road for a time while a 8m by 6m section of McVicar Rd, off State Highway 5 between Te Haroto and Te Pohue, was washed away on Saturday.

Further south severe temperatures froze part of the Otago Harbour and burst water pipes in Dunedin homes and businesses.

The wintry blast kept Dunedin plumbers busy with calls about burst water pipes from early Sunday morning.

Plumber Ken Shaw said he had seen extreme water damage.

"Ceilings have collapsed. People are having to get in electricians to isolate their power."

Another plumber, who did not want to be named, said he attended jobs where whole storeys within a house were "totally" gutted by water.

A rugby field sized portion of Dunedin Harbour was frozen solid yesterday morning - something that was "highly unusual" according to consultant hydrologist David Stewart.

MetService meteorologist Stephen Glassey said cold southerly flow over the country and clear skies over the South Island created perfect conditions for the big freeze. A ridge of high pressure moving over the South Island is expected to keep overnight temperatures in the region low until at least Thursday.

Today's weather

Whangarei: A few showers. Southwesterlies, dying out. High 13, Low 6

Auckland: Fine spells, few showers clearing evening. Light winds. H 12, L 4

Tauranga: A frosty start to a sunny day. Southwesterlies dying out. H 12, L 3

Napier: Occasional showers. Cold gusty southwesterlies. H 11, L3

Taupo: Fine with morning frosts, possibly severe. Light winds. H 8, L -2

Wellington: Occasional showers. Fresh southerlies. H 8, L 5

- NZ Herald

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