Winter is expected to make its entrance tomorrow as snow, rain and gales head for the Southern region.

MetService shows a deep low is expected to move eastwards across central New Zealand during Thursday morning, bringing a cold snap.

It will be preceded by a strong and moist northwest flow, then followed by a strong and cold south to southwest flow.

As the low moves away to the east, there is moderate confidence southwest gales will become severe about Stewart Is, Southland, Fiordland and Otago.

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Snow showers could drop as low as 300m in the hills of Southland, Fiordland, South Otago, Central Otago and Dunedin on Thursday, Friday and early Saturday, but confidence in it eventuating is low.

Southern residents, particularly farmers, were warned to expect wintry and possibly blizzard conditions at times, which may result in a wind-chill that can cause stress to livestock.

During Saturday, the weather is forecast to settle as a ridge of high pressure spreads over the country from the west, and to become slow moving over New Zealand on Sunday.

MetService forecaster April Clark said the weather could bring the lowest freezing levels seen so far this year.

While it was too early to say how much snow would fall, she said Southern residents would notice the sudden cold snap as temperatures started to spiral downwards on Thursday.

Temperatures were set to plummet to highs of just 7degC this weekend.

- Additional reporting by NZME