A group of high school students trapped by rising floodwaters in a remote mountain hut overnight have made it out safely.
The Otago Boys' High School students were trapped in Mt Aspiring National Park after heavy rain rendered a creek impassable.
A school spokeswoman said they received word at 11.30am all the boys were loading the bus and were on their way home.
She said it was a "relief" knowing they were all fine and well.
Deputy rector Mark Hooper said last night the group of about 25 year 9 pupils were scheduled to return Thursday but the creek rose rapidly and became too high to cross.
All parents had been informed and there was ample food in the hut in the Matukituki Valley, he said. This morning they had a good, hot breakfast while they waited for the creek to drop.
Earlier today the body of Rejoice Steadfast, a mother of 11 from the Gloriavale community, was recovered from the swollen Haupiri River near Gloriavale in the Grey District, West Coast.
A source told the Herald Steadfast had been watching the flooded river with family members when the bank gave way and she fell in the water.
Steadfast is the daughter-in-law of Gloriavale secretary and treasurer Fervent Steadfast.
Police this morning said a Search and Rescue team had recovered her body at 8am.
Her death has been referred to the coroner.
Elsewhere on the West Coast a bridge has collapsed and dozens of students are trapped as a wicked storm continues to pelt the region with heavy rain.
Parts of the West Coast received over half a metre of rain in the past 24 hours, with more rain and even snow on the way in the South Island.
NIWA said the highest amount recorded had fallen at Ivory Glacier, with over 650mm since Wednesday morning.
This was more rain than Christchurch receives in a year, 88 per cent of Dunedin's annual rainfall and 58 per cent of Auckland's.
Civil Defence remains on alert today following the storm.
Second worst flood in 50 years, repairs under way
The headwaters of the Hokitika, Wahio and Haast rivers are receding after parts of the ranges received more than half a metre of rain in the past 24 hours, but many roads have closed overnight.
Westland District Council Mayor Bruce Smith said the weather had settled down a bit this morning, with light rain and receding rivers.
Hokitika River peaked at about 1am at the second highest level in 50 years, Smith said.
"Up at Hokitika gorge it was frightening, there was a lot of water coming through. It would be the second worst flood in 50 years.
"We were concerned about the flood wall at Hokitika [town] but it held tight."
The biggest problem was the Goat Creek Bridge east of Otira, which had been completely eaten away by the swollen Otira River.
"The bank has washed out and the bridge is twisted, it looks pretty serious."
State Highway 73 between Jacksons and Springfield was closed for the weekend. SH6 from Hokitika to Fox Glacier was also closed, as well as several local roads due to surface flooding.
Smith said contractors were already getting stuck into clearing slips along the West Coast roads but Goat Creek Bridge would likely take much longer.
Bad weather, good for business
Smith said despite the bad weather the community was in good spirits.
"It has been a year of storms, but the community has been great.
"Yesterday I was in Hokitika and it was pouring with rain, tourists were stranded due to the roads, so I said to them, 'Head to the pub, grab a feed and sit in front of the fire, and enjoy yourself'. I had no complaints."
As it was shoulder tourist season there were no issues with accommodation, Smith said.
It also meant a good day for West Coast hospitality, with stranded visitors providing constant business.
A spokesperson from Stumpers Bar, Cafe and Accommodation in Hokitika says they were fully booked last night, with most people staying on tonight.
She says people couldn't go north or south yesterday and the cafe was full all day.
Now comes the snow
A severe weather warning remained in place for parts of south and central New Zealand today as a front moved across the South Island, reaching the lower North Island this morning.
MetService meteorologist Nick Zachar said some weather stations on the West Coast had recorded over half a metre of rain in the past 24 hours.
Ivory Glacier on the West Coast topped the charts at 550mm, while many other areas in the ranges received similar amounts. That is more rain than Auckland has had in the past four months.
While the weather was on an easing trend there was still plenty to come.
"We are still seeing quite a bit of rain about Hokitika and south of there, some stations on the West Coast have had 40mm an hour, and heavy snow is starting to fall in the Canterbury high country. Mt Cook Village is starting to see some decent snowfall," Zachar said."
"This is all adding to river levels and increasing the risk of flooding and slips."
Road snow warnings were in place for many South Island alpine passes this morning. Arthur's Pass (SH73) could see as much as 12cm of snow, Porters Pass (SH73) 15cm, Lindis Pass (SH8) 8cm and the Crown Range Rd a light dusting.
There was also a moderate risk of elevated thunderstorms over northern Westland, Buller and western Nelson in the early morning, and a low risk over the remainder of Nelson.
As the front moved north it would be replaced by a cool southerly change. Christchurch would see its high drop from 29C yesterday to just 11C today. Kaikoura, which topped the country yesterday on 31C, would drop to a cool 14C.
The cold front would move over the North Island from midday Friday and clear the island by Saturday afternoon.
The rain over the North Island would mostly fall from late Friday to Saturday morning, followed by a few showers lingering into the afternoon.
Anyone attending the Taylor Swift concert in Auckland Friday evening was advised to keep an eye on the forecast and consider taking a poncho or raincoat.
On Sunday, showers would pepper the North Island where it would be cool, while a fair amount of sunshine over the South Island would allow the temperatures to recover to the high teens.
Mostly cloudy, chance drizzle. Rain developing at night as northerlies turn southwest. 23C high, 13C overnight.
Mostly cloudy, chance drizzle. Rain developing late evening as northerlies turn southwest. 22C high, 12C overnight.
Mostly cloudy, chance drizzle. Rain developing evening, clearing overnight. Northerlies. 22C high, 9C overnight.
Cloudy, and possible drizzle. A period of rain at night. Northerlies dying out at night. 20C high, 12C overnight.
New Plymouth Drizzle at times, then rain developing afternoon as northerly turns southwest. Rain clearing overnight. 18C high, 7C overnight.
Napier Cloud increasing, few spots of morning rain. Rain developing evening and northerlies turning southerly. 27C high, 12C overnight.
Whanganui Cloud and chance shower. Rain developing afternoon and northwesterly turning southerly. Rain clearing at night. 23C high, 10C overnight.
Wellington Drizzle turning to rain this afternoon, then easing at night. Strong northerlies turning southerly evening. 18C high, 9C overnight.
Nelson Rain, chance heavy, clearing afternoon as strong northerlies change southwesterly. 18C high, 8C overnight.
Christchurch Rain, easing to a shower or two this evening but remaining cloudy. Southeasterlies dying out late. 11C high, 5C overnight.
Dunedin Fine spells. A few showers, mainly in the afternoon. Winds mainly light. 11C high, 7C overnight.