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Waikato, Taranaki and the Kapiti Coast would be "lit up like a Christmas tree'' tonight, with thunderstorms hitting the west coast of the North Island, according to MetService.

It's part of a weather system bringing downpours, hail, thunderstorms, snow, fog and maybe even a small tornado to the country over the next 48 hours.

The wintry blast has come as a new low formed east of Canterbury, MetService meteorologist Daniel Corbett said.


"It's actually on the radar spinning nicely like a car stuck in the mud - there's a good swirl of persistent rain now coming in to Otago and South Canterbury.''

Rainfall of up to 100mm could fall in those areas by late tonight, Mr Corbett said.

The Otago Regional Council said rainfall was continuing to raise river levels in North and South Otago, and there was surface flooding in adjacent low-lying areas.

People were advised to watch out for surface flooding, slips, and hazardous driving conditions.

There were also road snowfall warnings around the Southern Alps, which received a heavy dusting of snow in places today.

There was also a "small chance'' of a tornado along the North Island's west coast, Mr Corbett said.

18 Apr, 2014 1:30pm
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19 Apr, 2014 9:00am
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"These are not not like those big Wizard of Oz ones, these are more the smaller scale ... waterspout offshore.

"Hail, strong winds and heavy downpours are the main risk.''

"The southerly that's got the persistent rain to Otago and Canterbury, that whips up the country to Wellington tomorrow; it's one of those ugly days.''

Aucklanders could get an early morning wake up call, as thundery showers batter the city before dawn.

The worst will be over by sunrise, with lighter showers continuing throughout the day.

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This week kicks off with another rain maker but by Wednesday most of New Zealand will be dry as high pressure moves in. The next rain maker is lining up in the Tasman Sea for either the end of the weekend of the start of next week, and may well be a fairly typical Autumn low with warm, windy, weather in front and a change to colder, squally, showers behind. We have the latest on how it’s shaping up. analyst Philip Duncan said by Wednesday the low pressure system would start to move out to the east.

"Meanwhile clearing skies push into parts of the South Island - with the sun returning.''

By the end of the week, the weather will have calmed, maybe bringing some cloud and fog patches as the wind dies down, he said.

@MetService Strange clouds over Aucklands North Shore this afternoon