Contractors are working to remove a fallen tree and power lines on SH2 near Upper Hutt last night after blustery, cold weather hit the North Island.

The contractors were working through "hard weather" about 8pm to clear the section of Rimutaka Hill Rd, a police spokesperson said.

The front made its icy way up the country today, bringing with it snow, sleet and freezing cold temperatures with winds of up to 120km/h.

A building was caught in a landslide in Milford Sound, a house was struck by lightning in Buller and the capital received a dusting of snow, a one in five year event according to MetService.


Temperatures right across New Zealand were near or below 0C and 1700 customers throughout Selwyn and Banks Peninsula areas woke up to a power outage.

Snow blanketed parts of Canterbury and the Remarkables ski area closed after receiving more than half a metre of snow with Niwa describing the country as being "like a freezer" this morning.

Police closed the Coronet Peak road shortly before 10.30am after 8km of traffic was banked up heading to the ski fields.

Monster waves hit both coasts with Interislander acting operations manager Peter Mathews predicting towering swells in the Cook Strait peaking at a whopping 12m earlier today.

State Highway 2 Rimutaka Hill was closed twice by snow, ice and high winds before being reopened at 4pm.

The NZ Transport Agency advised motorists that the may close again tonight as weather conditions continued to change.

A road sweeper works up to the summit on SH2 Rimutaka Hill Road between Upper Hutt and Featherston after being closed due to snow and ice. Photo / Marty Melville
A road sweeper works up to the summit on SH2 Rimutaka Hill Road between Upper Hutt and Featherston after being closed due to snow and ice. Photo / Marty Melville

Police advised motorists to drive to the conditions, reduce speed and increase following distances between vehicles.

Severe weather warning were issued by MetService across the country, including snowfall warnings for the Napier-Taupo Rd, Desert Rd, Rimutaka Hill Rd, Lewis Pass, Arthur's Pass and Porters Pass.

Snowfall on the Napier-Taupo Rd was expected to continue overnight with up to 10cm at the top of the Rd.

A severe weather warning was in place for severe southerly gales in exposed eastern coastal regions including Banks Peninsula, the Kaikoura Peninsula, Wellington and Wairarapa.

Along the West Coast, lightning strikes caused havoc blowing meter boards and cutting power to houses.

Westport fire chief Alan Kennedy said firefighters received a call to a house fire at another Keoghan's Rd property about 3.30pm yesterday.

The owner had returned home to find his house full of smoke and a fire on the kitchen bench.

Firefighters suspected the house had been struck by lightning when they found the telephone jackpoint had been blown off the wall, papers which were underneath it were burnt and a small fire had started in the wall cavity.

Photos had been sent to fire safety officers in Nelson to confirm that it was lightning which had caused the fire, Kennedy said, adding he had heard the same thing had been reported at another house down the road.

A workshop building in Milford Sound was hit by three landslides around 10am, but no one was trapped or injured, a police spokeswoman said.

A number of trees had been brought down on to the building in each of the landslides.

The area was isolated and secured by emergency services.

Christchurch authorities said strong winds and snow were making conditions at Le Bons Bay.

Okains Bay and Barrys Bay Valley Rds both have power lines down and were closed to traffic early this afternoon.