28 Sep 2020

Road warnings as snow, strong winds continue

12:27 pm on 28 September 2020

Wild weather is continuing in parts of the country with heavy snow and strong wind warnings.

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Snow at The Hermitage hotel, Aoraki / Mt Cook.

Snow at The Hermitage hotel, Aoraki / Mt Cook. Photo: Supplied / Mackenzie Country Weather NZ

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MetService says snow has fallen to sea level in the far south of the South Island, and cold front is heading north.

Heavy snow warnings are in place for Fiordland and parts of Southland, and snow is forecast for Dunedin, Clutha and Central Otago, Nelson west of Motueka, Buller and Westland north of Arthur's Pass.

MetService is forecasting strong wind in Canterbury, Marlborough, the lower North Island and parts of Hawke's Bay.

The Crown Range road is closed due to snow and SH94 Te Anau to Milford is closed because of avalanche risk.

Snowfall warnings are in place for the Desert Road, Dunedin to Waitati Highway, and the Lindis, Arthur's, Haast and Lewis passes.

Road winding through a snow covered Lewis Pass, Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand

File photo. The South Island passes are all expected to have snow on them today. Photo: 123RF

Waka Kotahi NZTA senior journey manager Neil Walker said the message for anyone travelling in the South Island was to be vigilant and check weather and road conditions before they set out.

"Conditions can change at short notice so be really vigilant ... if you can avoid travel that's what we'd be recommending."

Snow near Queenstown

Snow near Queenstown this morning. Photo: Supplied

Auckland Harbour Bridge

Walker said the concern for the Auckland Harbour Bridge was wind speed, with the strongest gust overnight at 70 km/h.

Some lanes on the bridge would be closed if wind gusts reached 80 km/h today, and if the gusts got to 90 km/h they would look at closing the bridge, he said.

"Because we've got that temporary fix on there, if anything does occur on the day we're going to probably take a more cautious approach on closing the bridge."

A strut on the bridge was repaired last week after a truck, hit by a strong wind gust, crashed into it.

The agency advises avoiding the bridge if possible, travelling during off peak hours, using the western ring route or taking public transport.

Auckland Transport will look to replace double decker buses with single decker buses for services over the bridge today as a safety precaution, but Walker said there were plenty of seats on other bus services.

'Pretty nasty weather'

NIWA forecaster Nava Fedaeff said the South Island was in for very strong winds throughout the day, and widespread snowfall above 200m tomorrow.

"When you've got those cold temperatures and the wind combined, the wind chill is going to feel like -20 in some places - so very bitterly cold in some places."

The strong winds coming into the west coast of the country are caused by a rapidly deepening low pressure system, common in the Southern Ocean but not often reaching as far as New Zealand, she said.

Northwesterly winds in the North Island bring a turbulent day for Auckland with gusts from 70-90 km/h.

But the strongest winds, with gusts in excess of 100 km/h, will be along the west coast of New Zealand, around Christchurch, and in Wellington in the afternoon.

Avalanche warnings

Warnings for very dangerous avalanche conditions have been issued for Arthur's Pass, Aoraki Mt Cook, Wanaka and Fiordland with the risk expected to remain high or increase through the day.

More than 50cm centimetres of snow was expected to fall to low levels over 24 hours around the Southern Alps, the avalanche advisory said

In Fiordland, debris from an avalanche large enough to bury or destroy a car was sighted on the valley floor at the Milford Track at the end of last week.

Milford Road will remain closed all day from the park boundary with MetService issuing a warning that up to 50cm of snow could settle on the road above 200m.

Alerts for dangerous avalanche conditions are also in place for Tongariro, Taranaki, Craigieburn Range, Ohau, Two Thumbs, Queenstown and Nelson Lakes.

In Tongariro, wind slabs pose the highest risk down to 1800 metres which includes part of the popular Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

"The next 48 hours do not look great to be in the mountains," the advisory said.

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