By Dubby Henry
Snow blanketed much of the country yesterday as the wintry blast continued to make its presence felt.
Strong winds caused havoc too, felling trees and causing power outages and leaving passengers stranded as ferries and flights were cancelled.
Central North Island highways are likely to close again today, after yesterday's snow closures left many drivers stranded. At least a dozen people were rescued from their stricken vehicles after snow closed the Napier-Taupo road.
The NZ Defence Force came to the rescue after a group of Mana bus passengers were stranded near the army camp in Waiouru due to road closures. They stayed overnight at the barracks.
Army unimogs were also taking generators to Raetihi and Ohakune after a substation fault left thousands of customers around Ruapehu without power in freezing temperatures.
Ruapehu District Council activated its Emergency Operations Centre and told those without power to bunk down with family and friends overnight.
Residents were being asked to conserve water as the outage affected water and wastewater plants.
Wellingtonians are picking up the pieces this morning as the brutal weather that battered the region begins to ease.
Winds of 167km/h were measured in the Cook Strait yesterday, with most flights cancelled. Niwa likened the wind speeds to that of a Category 3 hurricane.
Contractors will be out clearing slips and chopping felled trees, while airlines are working through a flight backlog.
A few sheepish householders will also be reclaiming their trampolines after they landed on roads and were wrapped around power poles in the fierce winds.
Regional Civil Defence controller Bruce Pepperell begged people to tie up their trampolines, saying he was "sick" of seeing pictures of unsecured trampolines that had "taken off like Mary Poppins".
All Cook Strait ferries were cancelled yesterday as 11m swells were measured offshore. Video showed waves sloshing over train tracks and spraying motorways.
Wellington would be back to "normal" winds today, WeatherWatch said.
An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said bad weather around the country was still causing delays last night.
Planes queued on the tarmac at Auckland Airport for up to an hour, a knock-on effect of the flight cancellations in other parts of the country.
Nanogirl Dr Michelle Dickinson was among those stuck. She tweeted that she had been sitting on the plane "waiting for a sign there will be an airbridge available soon".
The city itself escaped the worst of the weather yesterday, with the strongest winds out near the Manukau Heads. But gusts brought trees and power lines down in spots around the area.
There was plenty of hail in the Waitakeres and one - unsubstantiated - report of snowflakes in Mt Wellington.
The MetService's Ravi Kandula said with temperatures still well above freezing the "snow" was more likely sleet and slush.
Auckland was expected to remain windy today with showers and strong winds easing tonight.
The wintry blast is dying off in the South Island, but parts of the North Island are still bracing for more severe weather today.
Much of the central North Island can expect snow above 600m as well as heavy rain.
The Central Plateau would be around 1-2°C this morning, MetService said, again warning motorists of black ice on the roads.
As well, the Wairarapa is set to get heavy rain.
WeatherWatch said a narrow but intense band of rain would move slowly over the region and up into Hawke's Bay today before breaking up over Gisborne.
The rain would be heavy enough to cause flooding - bad news for farmers in the area.
And the chilly starts are set to continue for a little bit longer with tomorrow morning's temperatures forecast to be near 0C across the South Island from Invercargill to Nelson as well as a chilly 1C in Taupo and Hamilton in the North.