19 May 2024

Cold night for South Island, heavy snow warning issued for inland Canterbury

12:26 am on 19 May 2024
Snow in Lauder, Central Otago.

Snow in Lauder, Central Otago on 18 May, 2024. Photo: X / NIWA

Part of the South Island are shivering through a cold night, with snow warnings and rain watches in force.

Road snowfall warnings were in place for Canterbury's Porters Pass and Milford Road, between Te Anau and Milford Sound.

Meanwhile, an orange heavy snow warning had been issued for parts of Canterbury overnight.

MetService said the warning affected inland Canterbury, south of the Rangitata River, and included the Mackenzie Basin.

It would be in place until 9am Sunday.

Snow seen south along SH8 towards Lindis Pass summit lookout, on 18 May, 2024.

Snow seen on the roads south along State Highway 8 towards Lindis Pass summit lookout on Saturday evening. Photo: Waka Kotahi

"Heavy snow may disrupt travel in affected areas and could damage trees and powerlines. Cold conditions may cause stress for livestock," the forecaster said.

Up to 20 centimetres of snow was forecast to settle above 500 metres with lesser amounts further down.

A heavy rain watch was in force for Westland, and there were heavy snow watches for Fiordland, Southland and Otago.

MetService meteorologist Mark Todd said snow settled on Saturday in places like Kingston and St Bathans, where 3cm was recorded.

"There's also been some good snowfall obviously higher up around the passes, it's currently snowing on Lindis Pass, and we expect that to continue into the nighttime, and there's potential for some good accumulations on Lindis Pass, we'll just have to see exactly how much does fall there," he said.

The Transport Agency's (NZTA) website showed State Highway 8, including the Lindis Pass, was closed until further notice due to the snow. The road is shut between Omarama and Tarras.

NZTA said it was likely to stay closed overnight, with MetService expecting another 3cm to 6cm around the summit until about 4am.

There was no detour available so people should plan their journey accordingly, it said.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research centre (NIWA) said maximum temperatures were expected to only be in the single digits from most of the South Island on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the cold weather was believed to be behind the closure of the Christchurch Netball Centre on Saturday.

A few hundred people were asked to leave the six-month-old centre when water appeared on the courts.

In a post on social media, a centre spokesperson said extremes in weather temperatures and recent work on the roof were believed to be the cause.

"According to Apollo Projects, a brand new building experiences a settling in process. It is not an ongoing issue, but the response of the roof to work undertaken, extremes in temperature (day/night, warm/freezing) and the brand new-ness of the structure," the post said.

"We appreciate your patience as we work through today and next steps."

The post apologised to players who had their games cancelled on Saturday.

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