Severe weather has closed roads and schools, cut power, disrupted flights and caused flooding in Otago, Southland and the West Coast.
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Temperatures plummeted as a deepening low moved across the South Island bringing snow, heavy rain and gale force winds.
Several schools in Queenstown closed before the storm hit this morning in anticipation of the bad weather, and blizzard-like conditions caused at least eight road closures.
Reuben Mama was on a bus trip between Christchurch and Wanaka, which stopped in Tekapo and then couldn't go any further. He said it was a complete white-out in Tekapo.
"There's just snow everywhere. It hasn't stopped falling for the last four or so hours. It's pretty crazy stuff, really. I wasn't expecting that when I left Christchurch this morning"
Mr Mama said he only expected to grab some lunch with his group of about 10, but now they were staying the night in a hostel.
Heavy snow knocked out Alpine Energy's network in Geraldine at about 5pm, leaving hundreds of homes in the Mackenzie District without power.
Homes in the Fairlie, Burkes Pass, Mount Dobson and Opuha areas have been affected.
Wakatipu High, Remarkables Primary, Queenstown Primary, St Joesph's Primary and Arrowtown Primary were all closed today due to the weather.
Numerous flights in and out of Queenstown Airport have been cancelled due to snow on the runway and high winds. Travellers are asked to contact airlines directly for flight information.
Road closures across Otago and Southland
At 5.30pm, eight state highways were closed because of ice, snow, frost and gales. The following highways will remain closed overnight:
The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has issued a flooding warning for State Highway 6, from the Fox Glacier to Haast in the Westland National Park.
NZTA spokesman Mark Owen said drivers should expect the roads that are open to be slippery and wet. He said high winds would also be dangerous for anyone on a motorbike, or high-sided vehicles like vans and campervans.
Another spokesman, Lee Wright, said drivers needed to seriously consider if they needed to travel tonight. He said, if they do, they should allow more time for their journey and be prepared for unexpected hazards.
A heavy snow warning remained in place for Otago and Canterbury, which could receive up to 30cm of snow, a MetService spokesperson said.
Almost half a metre of rain has fell on the West Coast today and the wintery snap is expected to continue into tomorrow. Winds of 70 km/h were recorded this morning in Timaru.
Ski-fields forced to close
"Blizzard" conditions forced Cardrona ski-field to close for business today.
We are CLOSED due to SO MUCH SNOOOOOOOW!! It's dumping up here! It's going to be epic once this blizzard clears :-) #❄️ #winter2015— Cardrona Ski Resort (@CardronaNZ) June 17, 2015
The weather also forced Queentown's Remarkables ski-field to delay its opening day, originally scheduled for Saturday.
The snow storm prevented workers from putting the final touches on its new base building.
That means it will not be open in time for the start of the town's annual Winter Festival, which will be officially opened tomorrow night by Prime Minister John Key.
NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson said it was disappointing to be so close to opening but the top priority was to get the building properly completed.
Meanwhile, Coronet Peak was open with 50cm of new snow on the upper mountain.
Mt Hutt ski-field also posted a picture on Facebook of a stone that smashed a hole in one of its windows at 172 kilometres per hour.