Towering seas, punishing gales and heavy snow and rain are lashing central New Zealand as the vicious winter storm enters its third day.
Snow is continuing to fall across both islands and not expected to let up until tomorrow.
Around a dozen people have been rescued from their stricken vehicles after snow closed the Napier-Taupo road.
So far 12 people have been brought down to a Civil Defence collection point but some truck drivers are electing to stay put.
Police describe the gales, rain and snow as a "trifecta of trouble".
Scores of roads across the South Island have closed and eastern and southern parts remain snowbound.
The North Island is now bearing the brunt of the storm with waves as high as 11m through Cook Strait and powerful winds of 167 km/h.
Wellington Airport has already cancelled six flights and many more are delayed as the runway was buffeted by wind gusts of up to 90km/h.
Snow is falling on the Rimutaka Hill Rd but remains open for now.
Snow is expected to fall as low as 300m in parts of the North Island today.
The wild weather also cut power to more than 5500 households across the lower half of the North Island.
Many of those without power are in isolated rural settlements in the Manawatu Ranges where heavy snow has fallen.
MetService meteorologist Mark Todd said eastern and central regions of the South Island would continue to be affected by widespread snow showers for the next 24 hours.
The worst affected areas were inland, mid and north Canterbury and Kaikoura where heavy snow was expected down to 200m.
"In this area we expect the showers to start easing later today and the snow level to rise gradually but the snow showers will still persist overnight into Friday," said Todd.
It's good news for the far south where few snow showers are expected across the lower South Island as the weather starts to improve from the blast.
But the focus was now firmly on the lower half of the North Island, as the low deepened overnight and rain intensified across the island.
"We're expecting snow to fall possibly as low as 300m in some places," Todd said.
"It's snowing on the Rimutaka Hill Rd and we have a warning for possible heavy falls of rain and snow falls at high levels for Wairarapa, including the Tararua District, Wellington, the Kapiti Coast and the Manawatu Ranges."
At the same time gales were lashing much of the country early today.
Winds of 167km/h have rocketed through Cook Strait, according to Weatherwatch.co.nz.
The forecaster says at 7.45am wind were averaging 80km/h and gusting to 115 km/h in Wellington city and at the airport.
The damaging gale force winds were expected to peak this morning before easing throughout the day.
At 6am the Desert Rd was the only major highway closed because of snow.