The lower South Island has been blanketed in snow overnight and today - and more is on the way.
Residents in Dunedin, West Otago and Southland reported heavy snowfall this morning, with an estimated 20cm to 40cm falling in some areas.
Snow was still falling in Dunedin by mid-afternoon as freezing conditions caused chaos on southern roads.
A crash in icy conditions on Stuart St in Dunedin caused delays for citybound motorists from about 8.25am. Three Mile Hill Rd in Dunedin was closed due to snow at about 2.30am.
Many hill suburb roads have frozen and motorists are being asked to take extra care or avoid travel if possible.
Waka Kotahi warned of black ice on SH1 between Dunedin and East Taieri at about 8.45am.
The Dunedin to Waitati Highway (SH1) was also closed at Leith Saddle at about 2.30am but reopened at about 6.30am.
Two vehicles, including at least one truck, became stuck on SH8 in the icy conditions.
A Queenstown Lakes District Council spokesman said extreme care was required.
In South Otago, as much as 30cm of snow has fallen around Tuapeka West.
Milford Rd (State Highway 94) from Te Anau to Milford, reopened shortly after 10am Sunday but will close overnight from 4.30pm.
SH93 between Clinton and Mataura has also reopened.
State Highway 87 between Kyeburn and Outram and SH85 between Kyeburn and Palmerston are both closed due to heavy snow, with the next update expected mid-morning Sunday.
The small town of Tapanui in West Otago in particular received a large dumping of snow, and some residents reported their power had been out since 9am this morning.
MetService this morning issued a severe weather warning for the southern South Island.
The forecaster said a further 15-20cm of snow could fall above 300 metres in Otago, south of Queenstown and Alexandra to Mosgiel, and also in Southland, Fiordland and on Stewart Island. Lesser amounts of snow would fall below that level.
The warning was in place until tomorrow morning, and the heavy snow could be replaced by heavy rain, Metservice said.
The polar blast bringing snow, wind and rain across large swathes of the country is expected to be shoved east by an incoming ridge of high pressure in the next few days.
“It’s probably a good start for the school holidays,” MetService meteorologist Paul Ngamanu said.
“Couple of movie days … then once this flow clears off there’ll probably be some pretty good ski conditions - even in the North Island.”
Up to 40cm of snow was forecast through the weekend for Ruapehu, where a Government bailout has saved the 2023 season of the mountain’s two ski fields, Whakapapa and Tūroa.
The week’s chilly south-westerly flow has already delivered a miserable first day of the school holidays to many parts of the country and sparked several snow and wind warnings.
A strong wind warning for Tararua district and Hawke’s Bay, south of Hastings, was to end at 8am today.
But heavy snow warnings remain in place for Southland, including Stewart Island and Fiordland south of Doubtful Sound, and Otago, south of a line from Queenstown to Alexandra and Mosgiel.
Until 9am tomorrow 20cm to 40cm of snow could fall above 300m, with lesser amounts down to sea level.
There are road snowfall warnings for the Lindis Pass (SH8) between 10am and 4pm today, the Desert Rd (SH1) from 1pm to 7pm and Dunedin to Waitati Highway (SH1) through to 10pm, with a few centimetres of snow possible on each.
The Crown Range Rd between Queenstown and Wanaka could expect 2cm to 4cm settling on the road at times until 7pm.
And on Milford Rd (SH94), south of Lake Gunn, 4cm to 8cm of snow may settle on the road until 9pm, MetService said late last night.
It’ll be showery today in the west and south of the South Island and the west and north of the North Island - where there was also a risk of thunderstorms, Ngamanu said.
Auckland should reach 15C, Hamilton 13C and Tauranga 14C.
Eastern areas and the capital can expect a better Sunday, and into tomorrow when it will still be unsettled for many parts of the country, he said.
“The south-westerly is a good [wind] direction for Wellington.”
Wellington and Christchurch will be mostly fine today, with highs around 10C.
By Wednesday much of the country can expect fine weather, although the deep south, Auckland and Northland may catch a shower, and sheltered spots will likely be frosty.
Enjoy the reprieve while you can though, Ngamanu said.
Another band of rain is on the way from the west and is expected to arrive next weekend.
- additional reporting ODT
Cherie Howie is an Auckland-based reporter who joined the Herald in 2011. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years.