Napier-Taupo Rd to remain open overnight (+ Video)

By Roger Moroney, Victoria White -
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The Napier-Taupo Rd (State Highway 5) will remain open overnight, but the NZ Transport Agency is warning drivers to exercise extra caution due to wintry conditions.

"While we have made the decision that the road will remain open overnight, we strongly advise that people only travel on the route after 5.30pm if absolutely necessary, as we are still expecting cold temperatures on the route overnight," NZ Transport Agency Highway Manger Wayne Oldfield said.

"We advise people to check the latest weather and road updates before they get on the road, and to ensure that they are well prepared for winter road conditions. This means being dressed warmly, having a full tank of fuel, as well as taking food and water. Making sure your cellphone is fully charged is also advised - although be aware that the cellphone coverage is not consistent throughout the route."

Mr Oldfield said the agency would have contractors monitoring the road overnight, and the road would be closed again if weather conditions make the route unsafe.

"We know that the road closure of this important regional route was very frustrating and we appreciated people's patience while the road was closed. The contractors have done a great job in challenging conditions in getting the road into a condition where it could be re-opened to traffic safely," he said.

State Highway 5 reopened at 11.45am after being closed by snow since late Friday night.

A Hawke's Bay Today team was at the cordon when it was lifted this morning. A line of vehicles was waiting for the roadblock to open. The NZ Transport Agency had earlier said the road would open at 11.30am, but warned drivers to exercise extra caution due to wintry conditions.

There were lots of smiling faces and raised thumbs from the traffic queue - about 1 kilometre long - waiting at the cordon this morning.

Many spoken to by Hawke's Bay Today said they'd heard about the proposed reopening at 11.30am online.

Motorist Sarah Williams, from Whakatane, said she had arrived in Napier for a girls' weekend on Friday. "I've been stuck here [Napier] for four days," she said.

She had planned to head home Sunday and had toyed with the idea of taking a detour through Gisborne, but said that would have cost her an extra four hours' driving time.

As of 4pm today, other routes in the Central North Island where extra care is still required include:
• State Highway 1 Desert Road is now open but with winter driving conditions.
• State Highway 2 Tutira to Wairoa - debris from the weekend's storm and winter driving conditions.
• State Highway 2 Otoko to Matawai - ice and winter driving conditions.
• State Highway 2 Rimutaka Hill Road - winter driving conditions.

In general, road users are advised to continue to take extra care and drive to the conditions. As weather and road conditions can change rapidly NZTA advised people to check the latest weather and road updates before they get on the road.

The Transport Agency's Winter Journeys website www.nzta.govt.nz/winter-journeys brings together tips on winter driving and links to get updates on the latest weather and road conditions.

Motorists can get real time information from:
www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic

Meanwhile the big chill and bands of rain is set to ease off across Hawke's Bay over the next two days with rising temperatures and calmer conditions set to arrive on Thursday and into the weekend.

"The weather forecast this weekend is fairly typical for winter but while changeable and a bit cool it's not going to be like previous weekends where we had widespread severe weather," a Metservice spokesperson said.

There will still be bands of showers today and tomorrow across the Bay but milder westerlies are set to move in on Friday and increase their coverage over the weekend where sunshine and temperatures around the 16C to 17C are forecast to arrive - taking the place of the bitterly cold southerlies which have brought extensive snow and freezing rain to the Central North island and eastern regions.

It will be good news for contractors working to restore power to many homes across Patoka, Esk Valley, Tongoio, Tutira and Waipunga - although Unison public relations manager Danny Gough has said the extent of the damage to downed lines and poles, coupled with the difficult terrain, meant power could be several days away yet.

The improving temperatures and arrival of more milder westerly winds will also help to ease snow conditions which have closed the Napier-Taupo highway.


EARLIER REPORT:

Roads around Hawke's Bay began to reopen yesterday, as the weather that closed them over the weekend eased.

An update on the closure of State Highway 5 from Napier to Taupo is expected at 10am today after it was closed yesterday for the fourth night in a row.

A snowfall road warning for the road was issued after snow showers were predicted overnight to early this morning. Up to 2cm of snow was expected to accumulate above 600m, MetService reported.

However the road was the only one still closed yesterday after the weekend's weather bomb.

With no further snowfall warnings, State Highway 1, Desert Road, was opened, although road users were advised to expect winter conditions and to take extra care.

The NZ Transport Agency last night urged caution on other roads because of ice on SH2 from Napier to Tutira and flooding from Tutira to Wairoa.

Ice was still present on a northern section of SH2 between Otoko to Matawai.

For motorists heading south, speed restrictions are in place between Trentham to Haywards, Upper Hutt, because of black ice.

Care was also advised for the Rimutaka Hill Rd on SH2 because of ice.

Yesterday, MetService meteorologist Claire Flynn said any remnants of the weekend's severe weather were expected to have cleared by Thursday.

After an overnight low of 3C, occasional showers were expected today, falling as snow above 600m at first.

The day's expected high was 11C, with southwesterlies, turning southeast.

Occasional showers, southeasterlies, and warmer temperatures were expected tomorrow, with a high of 13C and overnight low of 8C.

Temperatures would be cooler in Central Hawke's Bay, reaching a high of 9C today, and 11C with overnight lows of 2C, and 3C.

Road users are advised to take care and drive to the conditions, and check the latest weather and road updates before travelling. Motorists planning to travel over the next few days are advised to check out highway conditions through the NZTA website, which is being constantly updated.

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