Snow has closed five of the country’s highways and a main North Island route is expected to be hit with more than a day of snow as a cold front creeps up the country.
MetService meteorologist April Clark said the cold front is tracking over the North Island and showers are following it closely.
A 25-hour snowfall warning is in place for the Desert Rd, which is closed and snow is falling in the hills of Wellington.
Highways across the South Island closed because of snow and ice include Arthur’s Pass, State Highway 1 between Waitati and Dunedin, State Highway 87 between Outram and Middlemarch and State Highway 75 from Little River to Duvauchelle.
Lewis Pass is now open.
There is also moderate risk of thunderstorms for central and eastern Bay of Plenty and northern Gisborne this afternoon.
“If these thunderstorms occur, they are likely to be accompanied by localised heavy rain with intensities of 10 to 15mm per hour and small hail,” Clark said.
Snow in Christchurch
Northern Canterbury is enjoying a winter wonderland with snow down to around 200m.
A blanket of snow has also covered Christchurch’s Port Hills, Mt Pleasant and Akaroa.
Canterbury Weather Updates’ webcams at the Christchurch Gondola show that snow is falling over the city and flurries to sea level.
The forecaster has also reported snow settling on Sumner Beach.
The coldest area in the country overnight was Tekapo, which got down to a freezing –6.6C.
Lake Pukaki’s overnight low was –5.7C and Timaru’s was –3.1C.
In the North Island the Central Plateau had an overnight low of –3.3C and Wellington got down to –1.1C.
Clark said tonight is expected to be even colder as the cold snap moves up the country and clouds clear.
Queenstown is expected to get down to –5C tonight while Christchurch, Ashburton and Timaru will get down to –3C.
Rotorua and Taupō are expected to get down to –1C.
Taupō’s overnight low tomorrow will be –2C and Masterton’s will be –3C.
Southern District police are asking urging motorists to take extra care on the roads this morning after crashes across Dunedin due to the frosty conditions.
A police spokesperson said there have been crashes on Stuart St in the city, as well as on bridges south of Dunedin on State Highway 1.
“Give yourself extra following distance, and delay travelling if at all possible,” they said.
Clark said there is a snowfall warning for the Desert Rd between 2pm and 11pm today and for the Napier-Taupō road from this evening.
She said areas where it is not snowing can still expect icy conditions, especially in the lower South Island.
“Even if you’re heading out and it’s not snowing, there’s definitely still some wintry conditions out there.”
Arthur’s Pass and Porters Pass had between 3-10cm of snowfall overnight while between 1-5cm fell on the Lewis Pass.
A winter wonderland
Residents in the Canterbury ski village of Mt Lyford awoke to a blanket of snow covering their region this morning.
Up to 15cm of snow fell overnight, and the manager of Mt Lyford Lodge peeked outside to find a winter wonderland in the car park.
”I’ve only managed here for seven weeks and it’s happened twice at this level,” said Tania Watene.
”We’ll have some stunning pictures today; they’ll for sure be going up on our social media this morning.”
Watene said the lodge had five guests overnight who were expecting snow.
”They’re so excited, it’s a nice dry winter - we had snow a few weeks ago and it took a fortnight to get rid of the last of it.”
The village’s diggers and graders have already worked the roads this morning, clearing a path for traffic to move freely through the district.
”The roads clear pretty quick, it all happens when we’re asleep,” said Watene.
MetService said Canterbury’s snowfall is expected to clear this afternoon.
The weather agency’s message to the Canterbury public is to check Waka Kotahi NZTA’s public service announcements around road closures and conditions.
”It’s certainly the time to rug up,” said Clark.
Mary Holloway, owner of the Powerhouse Cafe & Restaurant in Hanmer Springs, said there had been snow overnight but nothing like they were expecting.
”It’s actually a bit of a non-event. It’s very pretty at the moment, anywhere not paved is white and there’s snow on the hills around Hanmer. It was snowing an hour ago but it’s kind of stopped.”
Shane Adcock, marketing manager for Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa, said quite a bit of snow was forecast but it had turned out to be a “light dusting”.
Some snow had settled in the village on grass and trees but the streets were clear. There was more snow on Conical Hill and on the mountains.
”There’ll be some beautiful wintry snow photos, possibly a few snowmen and snowball fights.”
Yesterday, the weather grounded a plane in Wellington because it needed to be “de-iced”, and temperatures plummeted around the country.
Forecasters are warning there will not be much respite from the chilly weather today.
In Auckland, cold westerly winds will change to southerly in the evening.
There is expected to be an extra nip in the air, according to MetService, with daytime temperatures in Auckland only reaching 13C.
Hamilton is only expected to climb to 12C, and Wellington only 9C.
For the South Island, Queenstown is only forecast to warm up to a chilly 6C, while Christchurch, Dunedin, and Invercargill are all expected to reach 8C.