Wintry weather has hit the South Island hard this morning, with snow closing roads around the region and storms causing power outages in Dunedin.

The cold weather has been felt up and down the country, with Southland covered in a blanket of snow, Napier hit by sleet and ice, and Wellington and Auckland plunging temperatures, fierce winds and rain.

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Last night's lightening storm and strong winds in Dunedin cut electricity to Musselburgh, Port Chalmers and part of the Otago Peninsula.

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Aurora Energy said lightening damaged transformers in Musselburgh.

Power has now been restored to Rawhiti Street, with a temporary generator installed.

Aurora Energy said power would be progressively restored to Cavell and Gresham Streets in Musselburgh later today once temporary generators had been put in place.

On the Otago Peninsula, power remained out from Weir Road to Taiaroa Head but was expected to be restored later today as soon as crews could safely repair the damaged line.

The outage there was caused by severe winds which brought down an overhead power line.

Power has been restored to most homes in the Port Chalmers area after power lines were downed.

Repairs were underway to restore power to remaining consumers.

Meanwhile, many areas of Central Otago and Queenstown have been reconnected to the grid after heavy snow caused widespread outages.

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Power has been restored to the Frankton and Arrowtown areas, to Lake Hayes Estate and the stretch of Ladies Mile to Lake Hayes Road, and to Rae's Junction.

Aurora Energy said power remained out for parts of Wanaka.

It said Delta crews were responding to faults and making repairs as soon as it was possible to do so safely.

Customers were being urged to report faults to their electricity provider.

Aurora Energy put out a warning for customer to prepare in case of further outages, with severe weather conditions continuing, and to always keep well clear of fallen power lines.

Children throw themselves into the snow. Photo / Ursula Davis
Children throw themselves into the snow. Photo / Ursula Davis

Weather forecasters said severe weather would sweep across the North Island and that cold southwest winds would continue to bring showers across Auckland.

MetService said Hawkes Bay has had 2-3cm of snow in parts above 150m and there were brief snow flurries in Taradale and Napier.

Overnight wind and rain and this morning's brief snow in Hawke's Bay resulted in power cuts in some "higher-up" rural areas.

Unison Networks customer relations manager Danny Gough said "a few hundred" customers had their supply cut, in some cases for up to two hours.

New Zealanders across the country can expect cold and wet weather to welcome in the week.

"But I think it's all done and dusted now, pretty well everyone will be back on," he said.

Snow fell overnight in Wairarapa down to 300m, with New Zealand Transport Agency teams working through the night to keep the Rimutaka Hill Rd open for commuters to Wellington this morning.

The foothills near Masterton and Carterton on both sides received a dump, as did the Aorangi Ranges on the southern coast.

Although the weather cleared across the Rimutaka and Tararua ranges, snow continued to fall on the eastern foothills during the morning, reaching up to 6cm near Gladstone and Admirals Hill.

Snow in Bay View, Napier. Photo / Supplied by Bruce Speers
Snow in Bay View, Napier. Photo / Supplied by Bruce Speers
Winter comes to Old Cromwell. Photo / Supplied by Brendan Dyer
Winter comes to Old Cromwell. Photo / Supplied by Brendan Dyer

MetService said snow flurries blanketed Invercargill overnight.

Dunedin had seen an onslaught of nasty weather, said MetService.15 cm of snow was reported at high elevations just above Dunedin, while the city's hill suburbs saw around 10 cm.

But MetService said rain fell on top of that this morning, quickly washing it away.

On top of the snow, Dunedin had experienced showers and offshore thunderstorms.

Sleety showers and strong, cold gusty southwest winds were forecast for today.

A severe weather warning was in place for Wairarapa and western Bay of Plenty where there's a risk of severe southwesterly gales.

"For Auckland, this strong, cold southwest flow continues to pump showers across the region today," said Meteorologist Georgina Griffiths.

"We have had a dusting of snow on highest elevations of Wellington and the Rimutaka Hill Road has had a reasonable total."

Desert Road has had some snow, and more are expected today as snow showers.

For Auckland, the wind and showers gradually start to ease tomorrow and Wednesday's forecast is for a cold start, but a mostly fine day.

A wintry blast hits NZ. Photo / Ben Harris
A wintry blast hits NZ. Photo / Ben Harris

"On Thursday morning, expect frosts across many parts of the North Island, as wind drops out, leaving the cold air behind," Ms Griffiths said.

Minimum temperature forecast for Thursday is 6C for Auckland, Tauranga and Wellington, 3C for Napier, 1C Palmerston North and 0C for Hamilton, Taupo and Masterton.

The risk of further heavy snow for has passed for parts of Fiordland, Southland and Otago.

These areas received significant snowfall above 200 metres last night and early this morning.

MetService said snow showers would continue throughout the day.

For Banks Peninsula, heavy snow was likely above 300 metres, especially this morning and afternoon.

Meanwhile, severe southwest gales gusting 130 km/h were expected about exposed parts of coastal of Otago, and Banks Peninsula today and early tomorrow morning.

MetService said winds of this strength could topple trees, and damage powerlines and unsecured structures.

Storm blasts Antarctic air across South Island

A massive storm just south of New Zealand is responsible for blasting Antarctic air across much of the South Island.

WeatherWatch.co.nz said snow was falling around Southland and parts of coastal Otago such as Dunedin, as well as further inland in areas of Central Otago.

Weather expert Philip Duncan said some snow flurries were falling up through Canterbury but the bulk of the snow was further south.

He said, "It's fairly normal to get a cold snap in late May. We're less than a week away from winter, it's not surprising to get a blast like this."

But he said the surprising part of this system was how deep the low was, just south of New Zealand.

"The air pressure is about 935 millibars, that's what we use to measure a low, and that's putting it up there.

"The depth of this storm south of New Zealand is up there with some of the biggest hurricanes we've seen. It's a really big storm."

But Mr Duncan said the storm was not directly hitting New Zealand.

"We're only getting the edges of it."

Mr Duncan said the low in the South Island had joined forces with the subtropical low that affected the North Island on Saturday.

"The two of them are working together to dredge up Antarctic air.

"So we've got this air at the moment being pulled up from Antarctica, and dumped over New Zealand."

Mr Duncan said the South Island was experiencing a very, very cold morning.

He said because the weather system was so big, it would take a few days to go by.

"It's not really going to ease around New Zealand until about Wednesday."

Making the most of the icy conditions. Photo / Supplied
Making the most of the icy conditions. Photo / Supplied

Mr Duncan said tomorrow would be another very showery, cold day, but temperatures would start to rise "a wee bit".

"And when I say a wee bit I really do mean a wee bit. There might only be a degree or two difference, but it's enough to stop snow falling to these low levels."

Mr Duncan said Dunedin, for example, had a forecast high tomorrow of 8C, increasing to 9C on Wednesday, 10C on Thursday and 11C on Friday.

He said the warm weather would return by the end of the week.

"We'll have norwesters and highs back into the late teens by Friday in the South Island."

Mr Duncan said the current snap was a taste of what the country could expect over the next couple of months.

"We're still two months away from the depths of winter."

Farmers well-prepared

Well-prepared farmers in the deep south have fared alright in what one described as "pretty bleak conditions".

Stephen Korteweg, a Clutha dairy farmer, is Federated Farmers Otago's immediate past president.

He said the icy blast was exactly what the forecast predicted, meaning farmers were well prepared.

"Generally speaking I'd say everybody's always got an ear to the forecast, and they keep their eyes and ears open, and act accordingly."

He said listening carefully to the forecasts helped farmers avoid potential catastrophe caused by Mother Nature.

Mr Korteweg said while snow had gathered on surrounding hills, the weather had turned "sleety".

He said temperatures had been sitting between zero and five degrees.

Mr Korteweg said most dairy farmers were already drying off their cows when the cold snap hit.

"I'd say the majority will have. If they haven't dried off this will certainly encourage them to do so pretty quickly...It's a bit of a reality check, winter's as good as here, it's not very far away.

"We're used to those conditions down here and we're usually set up for it."He said,

"It's quite early to be getting any sort of snow this time of year, in May, but then again it does happen."

Road closures

• SH 87 Kyeburn to Outram - closed

• SH 1 Pine Hill to Waitati - closed

• SH 85 Kyeburn to Palmerston - Road open to 4wds and light vehicles with chains. Closed to trucks and towing vehicles

• SH 93 Clinton to Mataura - Winter driving conditions. Please take care

• SH 7 Hanmer Turnoff to Springs Junction (Lewis Pass) - Caution, ice. Chains essentials

• SH 75 Little River to Barrys Bay - Caution, winter driving conditions

• SH 85 Alexandra to Ranfurly - Snow and ice. Chains essential

• SH 8 Lindis Pass, Central Otago - Vehicle restrictions, chains essential - closed to heavy vehicles

• SH 6 Cromwell to Frankton - Snow and ice. Chains essential.

• SH 94 Mossburn to Te Anau - Chains must be carried from George Hill to Centre Hill

• SH 8 Burkes Pass to Twizel - Chains essential. Close to towing vehicles

• SH 94 Te Anau to Milford Sound - No towing and chains required

• SH 73 Arthurs Pass to Otira - Vehicle restrictions, chains essential - closed to towing vehicles

Keep up to date with all the latest road information.

Schools

All primary and intermediate schools, and DKA Dunedin Kindergartens between Mosgiel to Port Chalmers to Waikouaiti will start at 10am today. Logan Park High School, East Otago High School, Palmerston Primary School and Flag Swamp Primary School will all start at 10am.

All Wanaka schools are closed today (includes Mount Aspiring College, Wanaka Primary, Holy Family Catholic School Wanaka and Hawea Flat School).

Weather last night and this morning

Snowfall

•20cm to 30cm recorded for Otago and Southland, including Queenstown

•15cm reported just above Dunedin, including the roads and passes

•10cm fell in Dunedin's hill suburbs

Temperatures
•Queenstown overnight low -0.9C, now 2.1C
•Invercargill overnight low 0.8C, now 3.2C
•Dunedin overnight low 0.6C, now 1.7C
•Christchurch overnight low 2.1C, now 5.3C

Forecast for the week
Christchurch
•Mon: Severe Weather Warning in force, Severe Weather Watch in force. Fine about the City with strong cold southwesterlies.
About Banks Peninsula, sleety showers and possible thunderstorms,with significant accumulations of snow above 300 metres, clearing overnight. Southwest gales, severe gusting 120 km/h in exposed places.
•Tues: Fine. Chance evening shower. Fresh Southwest winds Min 3C/Max 12C
•Wed: Mainly fine, few Banks Peninsula showers. Southwesterlies. Min 5/Max 11
•Thurs: Fine with light winds. Min -3/Max 12

Dunedin
•Mon: Sleety showers. Strong cold gusty southwest.
•Tues: Showers. Strong cold southwesterlies. Min 4C/Max9C
•Wed: Showers clearing, becoming fine. Dying southwesterlies. Min 6C/Max 10C
•Thurs: Fine with light winds. Min 3C/Max 11C

Queenstown
•Mon: Snow showers easing. Fresh cold southerlies.
•Tues: A few sleety showers, fine spells. Cold southerlies. Min 0C/max 8C
•Wed: Early sleety showers, then fine with light winds. Min 1C/max 9C
•Thurs: Fine with light winds. Min -1C/max 9C