A sodden South Island will have the chance to dry off over the next few days, after a front which brought gales, torrential rain, thunderstorms and unseasonal snow to the south moves off the country.

MetService this afternoon said weather conditions had now settled and the storm had abated.

The winter-like weather brought down a vital bridge and fibre optic cable on State Highway 6, just north of Harihari, cutting off communication for about 1000 residents.

Floodwaters prevented structural engineers from inspecting the bridge today.


"Teams of contractors are working 15 hours while there's daylight to clear the flood debris and divert the river," New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) spokesman Mark Pinner said. "Once water levels drop we can get in quickly to inspect the bridge and then start re-building that section of the highway lost in the flood."

NZTA was hoping to have a clearer picture tomorrow on how long it would take to reopen the road, although it was expected to take days.

The West Coast road via Lewis Pass through Murchison also had to be closed, forcing travellers to make a seven-hour detour around Blenheim and Kaikoura to get to the east coast of the South Island.

State Highway 65 between Murchison and Springs Junction remains closed due to flooding, Mr Pinner said.

State Highway 6 in the upper Buller Gorge had been closed due to flooding, but that reopened this afternoon.

Last night, eight vehicles spent four hours stranded in the remote Buller Gorge after slips trapped them.

Four trampers spent a cold and wet night stranded in the Kahurangi National Park when they were cut off by a landslip.

They camped for the night above the slip, and were winched to safety this morning when the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter was able to fly into the area.


More than half a metre of rain fell in some areas of the West Coast over the past two days.

Snow fell on the Lindis Pass in Otago overnight, forcing travellers to abandon their vehicles near the summit.

MetService forecaster Peter Kreft said weather conditions had generally settled down, and New Zealand now had a ridge of high pressure sitting over it for today and tomorrow.

The weekend was likely to be warm just about everywhere, with temperatures in the east of both islands expected to be around the 30 degree mark, Mr Kreft said.

However, come Monday a south-west flow would reach the country, cooling things down again.

"Timing of weather events beyond Monday is still a little uncertain,'' he said.