Dozens of travellers were stranded in Napier overnight, after a polar blast which blanketed the region in snow left them trapped in their cars on State Highway 5 yesterday.

At least eight trucks and other vehicles were stuck on the road between Napier and Taupo, after it closed early yesterday morning because of heavy snow and ice.

From mid-morning, Police, the New Zealand Transport Authority, and Hawke's Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management worked to rescue 30 motorists and transport them to safety.

Although some motorists initially "refused" to leave their vehicles, by mid-afternoon most had been evacuated.

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This included a young family from Auckland on their way to Masterton.

Jordan Priestley said they had only travelled on SH5 because the Desert Road was closed. However while on the highway "it started snowing and the snow was so thick, we couldn't drive up one of the hills so got stuck behind about seven trucks".

"It was pretty scary, we were there for about two hours before we got evacuated out."

Ms Priestley was relieved to arrive in Napier just before 2pm, not least because it been hard entertaining her 5-year-old daughter Arabella Oliver-Cole in a car for several hours.

With their car still trapped on SH5, they were among nearly 20 stranded travellers who spent last night in Hawke's Bay.

Hawke's Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management group manager Ian Macdonald said they had been able to evacuate all motorists - even those who had not wanted to leave their vehicles - by yesterday evening.

They had also found accommodation for six families who would be stranded overnight.

Some motorists were able to stay with friend or family, while 14 would be spending the night at Napier City Council-owned facility Kennedy Park Resort.

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Napier emergency management officer Marcus Hayes-Jones - who had helped with the rescue - said they were "somewhat miffed" to be stranded on the road, but seemed to be in good spirits, and grateful for the opportunity to rest and relax.

"As soon as the road reopens, we'll assist with returning them to their vehicles so they can be on their way again."

The closure also left other motorists stranded in Napier and Taupo, after being turned away at both ends of SH5.

Mohaka Rafting owner Norm Brown had been in Napier for business yesterday, and without being able to return home faced the prospect of a cold night "camping in the truck".

The closure also meant several guests booked at Mountain Valley Adventure Lodge near Te Pohue were not able to get to their accommodation.

Owner Julie Batt said while that was a shame, luckily no guests were stuck at the lodge "who don't want to be here".

Today motorists were urged to take caution, with the main routes through the centre of the North Island closed because of ice or snow.

Currently the best connections to the upper half of the North Island were via SH3 New Plymouth. It was expected SH5 would remain closed until at least lunchtime today.

• For the latest on road conditions visit www.nzta.govt.nz.