A passenger ferry was forced to make a marathon seven-hour journey crossing Cook Strait to skirt around high seas whipped up by storm force winds.

The Bluebridge ferry tried to dodge the worst of the wild weather which last night saw 4-metre swells and southerly winds tipping just under 100km/h whip through the passage.

A storm warning remains in force for Cook Strait but the towering seas and strong winds are expected to gradually drop throughout the day.

Strait Shipping spokesman Ed Menzies said in order to make the trip more comfortable for passengers the ship's master took a more southbound course and slowed down vessel which avoided the worst of the swell but meant the journey took seven hours, four hours longer than normal.

The return sailing out of Wellington did not take any passengers for comfort reasons, he said.

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The crossing normally takes around three hours.

The overnight gales, which caused chaos on capital waterfront roads, brought down trees and delays to the city train network, ushered in one of the coldest weeks of the year with a stinging cold front laced with air direct from Antarctica sitting over the country.

With snow already falling in the South Island high country and mountain ranges of the central North Island temperatures are expected to plunge to single digits everywhere.

Cold weather is sending a chill down much of the country.

Auckland will see its coldest night this year with a chilly 6C and Christchurch is set to freeze on 0C.

The big chill has already hit southernmost towns with Alexandra recording an overnight low of -1C.

MetService is forecasting cold gale force southerlies to many regions across New Zealand. Wellington was expected to be battered by fierce gusts of up to 100 km/h today which were not expected to die down until after lunch.

While winds hammering the eastern coast of the North Island are expected to ease in the next eight hours, a new cold front will see the country's southernmost regions in the firing line for the next blast of gale northwesterlies.

MetService today issued a fresh weather watch for northwest gales developing over the South Island Tuesday with the possibility of destructive gales in Fiordland, Southland, Otago and parts of Canterbury.

A heavy rain warning has already been issued for Fiordland.

Tree lays across the road in Todman St, Brooklyn due to weather. Photo / Frances Cook
Tree lays across the road in Todman St, Brooklyn due to weather. Photo / Frances Cook

Weatherwatch.co.nz said after a chilly couple of days the country would have a warm Wednesday before ending the week with an even larger and colder wintry blast.

This morning Wellington roads were affected by flooding and a passenger train struck a tree that had fallen on the tracks after wild weather left a trail of havoc across the lower North Island.

The Wellington to Johnsonville line was delayed after an early morning commuter train hit a tree.

Metlink Wellington said the 5.32am service was briefly suspended between Awarua St and Simla Cres after bumping into branch that had fallen on the line. A spokesman said the branch had been cleared from tracks but running to a delayed timetable.

All train services on the Melling line were cancelled after strong winds damaged barriers between Petone and Wellington.

Waterfront roads closed overnight after huge waves left logs and debris strewn across lanes reopened but remain flooded, with Marine Drive in Lower Hutt still posing problems for motorists.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said strong winds took down a power line and damaged three vehicles on Todman St, Brooklyn.

MacLean said the site was cordoned off and would be attended to this morning.
He said there were several other reports of trees down in Brooklyn, Karori and Melrose.

Buses were now ferrying passengers between Petone and Wellington but there were no buses running between Melling and Petone.

Other services on the Hutt Valley Line between Upper Hutt and Wellington had also been affected by the overnight storm.

Marine Drive in Lower Hutt, which was closed last night after huge waves swept over the road, was now reopened.

Days Bay Eastbourne at 2055hrs.. Rd now closed from Point Howard to Ferry Rd...Days Bay. Dogs loved the walk

Posted by Chris Andrews on Sunday, 30 April 2017

Police were this morning advising motorists heading to work and school to take care on the capital's roads, with many harbourside roads still affected by flooding.

A Fire Service spokeswoman said the worst of the weather seemed to end at midnight. She was expecting a flurry of fresh calls once daybreak revealed the extent of the damage.

Today's main centre forecast
Auckland: Morning showers, strong winds easing becoming fine. High 16C dropping to 6C overnight.

Hamilton: Early morning showers then fine. High 15C dropping to 1C overnight.

Wellington: Mix of showers and fine weather. Gales ease after lunch. High 11C dropping to 7C overnight.

Christchurch: Showers clearing to fine weather. Southerlies dying out after lunch. High 12C dropping to 0C overnight.

Dunedin: Morning showers then fine. Southwesterlies turn northwest after lunch. High 14C dropping to 6C overnight.