A wintry blast is sweeping north tonight after delivering a short, sharp shock to the bottom of the South Island causing flight cancellations and grief for farmers.
A Jetstar flight from Melbourne had to be diverted to Auckland because of bad weather, while an Air New Zealand flight from Auckland, and two flights from Christchurch were cancelled.
The snowfalls today have caused some disruption to schools in the south and farmers are taking precautions to protect newborn lambs.
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Queenstown and Dunedin were among the centres hit.
ONE News reporter Megan Martin said people in the Otago region woke to some very cold temperatures this morning. She said her home looks over to the ocean and it was snowing right down to the beach, but not settling on the ground there.
It was settling in the hill suburbs of Dunedin, however, and some schools in the suburbs opened later to give people time to get there in their cars.
A lot of snow blankets the Clark's Junction area, about 50 kilometres south west of Dunedin and about 500 metres above sea level, Martin reported.
Some farmers are having a few problems, she said. While most have not started lambing yet the odd farmer is right in the middle of it and is noticing a few losses.
Roofs lost in high winds
Farmers scrambled to get lambs and livestock into shelter before the front brings bitterly cold winds.
The big problem had been the wind, Martin said. Gale force winds came through the region in the middle of the night last night, but have abated somewhat today.
The Fire Service said it received around a dozen calls overnight in Invercargill and other parts of Southland from residents who had lost roofs or had loose iron in high winds.
A heavy snow warning is in place for Fiordland, Southland, Otago and for the central North Island ranges from Taihape and the Kaweka Range of Hawke's Bay to northern Manawatu.
MetService said the watch is for the possibility of significant snow accumulations for Banks Peninsula and North Canterbury above 400 metres from this afternoon through to early tomorrow morning, and in Wairarapa above 500 metres this evening and tomorrow morning.
Drivers are being advised that snow is expected to fall and sometimes accumulate on the Desert Road, Rimutaka Hill Road, Lewis Pass, Arthurs Pass and Lindis Pass, while the Te Anau to Milford Sound road, State Highway 94, is closed by snow.
Showers were expected to turn to snow on the Desert Road around midday today. MetService says about 20cm could accumulate on the road above 800 metres from 1pm today to 8am tomorrow, while 5-15cm could accumulate at 600 metres. Further snow showers are also possible on the road tomorrow after 8am, the forecaster said.
"The showers are feeding their way north, right on the coast, temperatures are freezing," Dan Corbett from MetService told TV ONE's Breakfast this morning.
"The whole mass is working its way north. We're all going to get into this cold air.
"It'll be cold, it'll be frosty as well, frosts as far north as maybe Auckland, Northland in the next 24 to 48 hours," Corbett said.
Corbett said as the weekend approached, "we'll flick a switch, we'll be going back to a norwester and that marvellous spring weather will be coming back."