Stephanie is the Rotorua Daily Post's head of news

Rotorua's first snow in 50 years

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Snow has fallen in Rotorua's city centre for possibly the first time in at least five decades - and it may not be the end of it.

The polar blast hit downtown Rotorua yesterday and more bad weather may be coming.

Rotorua weatherman Brian Holden, who has lived in the city for 50 years, cannot remember it snowing in the central business district in that time. He also said "it wouldn't necessarily be the last of it".

The Metservice has said this "polar outbreak is expected to cause further significant disruption to both the transport network and to the farming community, particularly in view of its severity and duration".

Metservice weather ambassador Bob McDavitt said the expected polar blast had well and truly hit the country.

Bitterly cold conditions are forecast to continue for the next day or so. The MetService website at 7am today had Rotorua's temperature at -4.2C. The minimum temperature yesterday morning was minus 1 degree.

The snowy weather  also led to  the sentencing for a 52-year-old woman on drugs charges  being adjourned as she was unable to attend the Rotorua District Court.

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At Rotorua Primary School, principal John Naera said that, in his 18 years at the school, this was the first time it had snowed. The snow started falling while everybody was in assembly and as the children came out they saw it was snowing and got excited, he said.

"It was a real experience for them, some of them haven't [touched] snow before. They were running around with open mouths and with their tongues out trying to catch the snow flakes."

He said it wasn't too difficult getting the kids back into class once their hands became numb. Mr Naera said the snow fell again during their morning break and later in the afternoon.

Te Arawa kaumatua Anaru Rangiheuea who lives at Lake Tarawera said the mountain looked spectacular with a good thick layer of snow.

To him it appeared snow was being blown from the mountain in a westerly direction over his property. Mr Rangiheuea said it seemed that snow fell more often these days.

At Waiariki Institute of Technology the snow flurries added to the festivities being held there. The Institute was celebrating India's Independence Day. Waiariki's director of special services Paramdip Singh said snow started to fall during the flag raising ceremony.

"Everybody was outside taking pictures and nobody wanted to go into class," Mr Singh said.

In Rotorua's central business district locals and visitors were seen taking photographs of the unusual site of snowfall.

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In Mamaku, school children had a field day. Mamaku School principal Lorraine Taylor said it had snowed twice during the day from 8am to 10.15am and around lunchtime.

"The kids were playing in the snow before school started, running around chucking snowballs at each other."

Meanwhile, snow also fell in Taupo and the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

A blanket of snow covered parts of Taupo yesterday bringing excitement as well as disruptions to the community and skifields.

There were some road closures in Kinloch and Marpapa Rd, as well as the Desert Rd (SH1) and the Napier-Taupo Highway (SH5).

The snow falls also caused disruptions for Mt Ruapehu ski fields with both Turoa and Whakapapa closed for the day with surrounding roads closed. Sixty centimetres of new snow fell on Turoa while Whakapapa got 30cm.

Meanwhile, reports of snow have been coming in from around the Eastern Bay of Plenty including Whakatane, Matata, Kawerau, Ohope, Taneatua and Te Teko.

Kawerau's Jessica Kenny was surprised when she realised what she had thought was rain was a light snow fall, vanishing before it hit the ground.

"It was only like rain, but you could see it was bigger than rain, it was little flakes. It was really cool, but only lasted a few seconds," she said. Miss Kenny had also noticed snow on neighbouring Mt Putauaki, a very rare sight for the small town.

A skeptical Mahala Ogle saw either snow or soft hail falling around her home in the Whakatane hillside suburb of Mokorua during her lunch break.

"It was like a soft, diamond shaped hail," Mrs Ogle said.

"Hail normally falls quite hard, but this was soft. Some people are getting very excited about this, but it is probably just hail, or the tail end of what Taneatua got.

"It probably is not snow, but it is definitely bizarre."

 

- Rotorua Daily Post

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