8 Nov 2017

Snow, flooding forces schools to close in South Island

1:13 pm on 8 November 2017

Gales and stormy weather cut power to a wide area at the top of the South Island overnight and brought winds gusting to 120 km/h to the capital.

Snow in Fairlight.

Snow in Fairlight. Photo: Pete Van Berkel

A heavy band of rain swept across the North Island this morning and snow fell overnight to low levels, blanketing inland Otago and Southland.

Snow fell to 400 metres in many parts of the South Island, particularly inland Otago and Southland, closing State Highway 94 to Milford Sound. Fallen trees across State Highway 69 on the West Coast closed the road, which was expected to re-open this morning.

Nearly 800 children in the South Island had the day off as snow and flooding forced seven schools and two early learning centres in Otago and Southland to close.

Katrina Casey from the Ministry of Education said three of the seven had to close because buses couldn't get through by road.

Fire crews were called out to downed power lines, road blockages and flooding. Southern communications acting shift manager Ian Littlejohn said widespread power outages affected the West Coast, the upper South Island and the east coast down into North Canterbury.

Storm cloud over Nelson

Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

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He said it was eventful between midnight and 3.30am, especially on the West Coast, where roads were closed, trees and power lines were down and there was flooding.

"Fire and Emergency attended approximately 14 events. They ranged from assisting with the evacuation of campers from a low lying campground in Mapua [near Nelson] through to securing loose roofing material, assisting members of the public with flooding caused by storm surging.

"As a whole we only received reports of one or two trampolines flying this time. Regrettably one of the trampolines went into a transformer station.

"The worst hit area would be the West Coast, which suffered a number of road closures due to storm damage and power lines down across the road.

"We're expecting another surge of calls as people wake to the damage."

The Transport Agency was advising essential travel only on the West Coast. State Highway 6 Murchison to Inangahua (8 Mile to Inangahua) was closed due to a slip and trees down at multiple sites, and fallen trees were causing delays on other West Coast roads.

Power has been cut in Golden Bay, Murchison, Westport and many areas around Nelson. There were also reports of power cuts in the Blenheim area.

Gales and downpours hit Wellington overnight, with wind gusts of 120km/h recorded at 1am at Mt Kaukau.

As the severe weather moved in, Christchurch had winds gusting to 100km/h, Hokitika had 95km/h wind and 90km/h gusts were recorded at Waiouru.

Snow in Wedderburn, Central Otago

Snow in Wedderburn. Photo: RNZ / Russell Palmer

A cold front has also moved eastwards across the North Island.