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Winter whiteout - it's not over yet

Published: 5:31AM Tuesday August 16, 2011 Source: ONE News / Fairfax / Newstalk ZB

The polar blast is bringing more heavy snow and freezing winds to large parts of New Zealand.

The record snow and icy temperatures are still causing major problems and have even been affecting TV coverage for some viewers.

Snow has reached further than Dargaville in the so-called winterless north.

MetService says there is an end in sight, but not for a few days and there'll be hard frosts before then.
 
Snow showers in Canterbury and Marlborough are expected to spread north to reach the central North Island high country tonight, with snow down to around 400 metres.

It was snowing again in Wellington late this afternoon.

Strong southerlies are expected to bring severe wind chill conditions to coastal areas in Canterbury, Wellington and Wairarapa, but then gradually ease from late tomorrow.

"While more snow is likely, the end is in sight. It's still a few days away, though," said MetService Weather Ambassador Bob McDavitt.

McDavitt said an anticyclone is expected to move onto the South Island on Friday, to cover much of the country by Sunday night. 

"This is a cold cloudy high, so while showers in eastern areas will become steadily lighter from Wednesday onwards, they probably won't completely clear until the southerly winds die out in a few days' time. 

For the next few days frosts will be severe in many places, and there is likely to be a lot of black ice on roads, McDavitt said.

Snow brushes the winterless north

Snow reached the usually winterless north as the big storm continued to cause significant disruption - closing schools, roads, airports and crippling public transport.

Mount Tutamoe, just north of Dargaville, was dusted with snow this morning.

Vicki Cameron, who lives on the highest farm in the area at 550m above sea level, said the snow started coming down at around 10.00am.

She said it lasted long enough for her family to get out and have a quick snow fight, but it quickly melted away.

"The cattle thought it was interesting, but we were half expecting it," she told ONE News. "We have been here seven years and not seen anything like this."

Beef farmer Terry McDermott, who lives close to the mountain, said it's a first for him.

"It is absolutely quite clearly visible - it's at least 100m down from the top."

Kai Iwi Lakes beef farmer Bryce Wyatt could also spot snow from his property.

"I can see patches of it on Tutamoe - the bare land is coated in it. I can also see a dusting of snow over the tree tops too," Wyatt said.

Jaime Melanson, who lives in Mahuta Gap just south of Dargaville also claims to have seen snow or graupel falling on his property this morning.

Melanson said the snow was accompanied by wind gusts of 111km/h at 8.00am.

See a snapshot of 7am temperatures here.

REGIONAL ROUNDUP

Canterbury

Four hundred homes are still without power in Canterbury after about 1000 customers in rural central Canterbury had their power cut off overnight.

Orion's Rob Jamieson said trees and branches falling on overhead lines appears to have been the major cause of the outages, and engineers have been working on restoring supplies.

Snow has blanketed Christchurch again and as a result hospitals have seen an increase in slip related injuries.

A  teenager who was trying to clear snow off a roof fell off and is in a critical condition. The accident  happened at a business premises at Southbridge near Christchurch just before 3pm. The teenager was flown to Christchurch Hospital by rescue helicopter.

Christchurch buses didn't run today and a decision about whether they will resume tomorrow will not be made until the morning.

Hospital outpatients clinics and non-urgent surgeries were cancelled today and have been cancelled for tomorrow.

People are being asked to keep 111 lines for urgent emergencies and if people need non-emergency medical assistance, their first option should be their GP.

The courts and the majority of schools, universities and polytechs have been closed in Christchurch too, and a decision will be made by the individual institution tomorrow morning about whether they will reopen.

The snow in Christchurch is reported to be as deep as the last large fall in 1992, with drifts of up to 50cm in the eastern suburbs, and 20cm elsewhere.

The airport re-opened but passengers are being asked to check with their airlines before taking to the roads.

Supermarket chain Countdown has said most of its South Island stores are receiving deliveries but availability of fresh products may be limited as transport routes are disrupted.

A number of the chain's Christchurch stores are closing early today but it says all are expected to return to normal trading hours tomorrow.

Canterbury police are again advising all road users to assess their local road conditions prior to travelling and to stay at home or delay any non-essential travel where possible.

The police say snow and slush on the roads is likely to freeze overnight, making for treacherous conditions on the roads again in the morning.

Inspector Al Stewart says several four-wheel drive vehicles and vehicles with chains on have been reported travelling far too fast for the conditions, and drivers must slow down. Four motor vehicle crashes had been reported in Christchurch today, up to mid-afternoon, most of them minor, with no serious injuries reported.

Further afield in the South Island, the Arthurs Pass, Porters Pass, Lindis Pass and Lewis Pass highways are all closed.

Check the weather for Christchurch here.

Dunedin

The streets of Dunedin have been relatively clear today with only a light fall of fresh snow overnight.

Rain also helped clear the roads, although footpaths have been treacherous due to compacted snow.

Police are advising people to only travel in the city if necessary.

Dunedin Airport is operating again after two days of disruptions.

The University of Otago campus was open today.

Meanwhile, retailers in the city say they will suffer after an estimated $8 million in lost trade yesterday when the city was virtually shut down.

Farmers inland from Dunedin are still snowed in and some areas have snow drifts up to two metres high.

Both highways into Kyeburn may not open until Thursday.
 
Some farmers reckon it's the biggest snow fall in 20 years, but the good news is spring lambing doesn't start for another month.

However, many dairy farmers have been forced to dump milk because of difficulties getting tankers to pick up the supplies.

Farmers in the region say they were well prepared for the polar blast thanks to an early forecast from MetService which allowed them to move stock to shelter.

Check the weather for Dunedin here.

Central Otago

In the Queenstown district, some locals are calling it the biggest snowfall in 50 years.

And it has disrupted plans for hundreds of road and air travellers.

Queenstown airport has reopened but airlines have been continuing to cancel or reschedule flights.

The Lindis Pass highway which links Canterbury and Central Otago is still closed.

Roads around Clutha are still being described as treacherous and police are urging motorists to take extreme care.

Schools around Wanaka and Queenstown were closed for the second day running.

Check the weather for Queenstown here.  

Wellington region

More than 700  homes are without power in the the lower North Island.

Ice and snow build up on power lines, combined with strong winds, have put stress on the region's electricity network.

Electricity to parts of Lower Hutt was cut off twice this morning, and engineers are stretched to capacity trying to restore power.

Many schools in the region were closed.

Wellington's iconic cable car has broken down and won't start again until at least tomorrow. Bus services are running in the capital but some routes are limited and there are delays on the Hutt Valley train line.

Wellington Airport's runway closed about 5.30pm tonight but was expected to reopen about an hour later.

Rimutaka Hill on SH2 just north of Wellington is closed again.

Black ice was a problem in Wellington today, particularly in the hill suburbs and the Kapiti Coast. Police are advising people to delay their journeys in these areas until later if possible.

There were reports of motorists crashing due to the icy conditions, and pedestrians struggling along the pavement.

"Commuters should avoid getting in their cars and heading down steep roads if at all possible. There's a high chance you could come a cropper," said Wellington City Civil Defence Controller Mike Mendonca.

He also advised people wear socks over their shoes to improve their grip in the icy conditions.

Mail was not be delivered for a second day in some parts of the country, and the entire lower North Island missed the post today.

Check the weather for Wellington here.

Central North Island

The Desert Road on State Highway One in the central North Island was open this evening but authorities may revise their decision.

The road was closed after a heavy fall of snow overnight and up to 3cm was expected to fall on the road today.

A pair of lost trampers had a stroke of luck last night in the Whirinaki Forest Park.

The American tourists got lost in the freezing conditions but ran into two off duty policemen on a hunting trip who were able to use a satellite phone to call for help.

More snow is expected in the area tonight with 10cm to 20cm forecast to fall on high ground from 6.00pm, also affecting Hawke's Bay and Gisborne.

Check the weather forecast here.

Ski fun for some

And the big white out is now proving to be a real blessing for skifields in the central North Island.

Whakapapa ski field has 40 cm of fresh powder snow but with so many roads closed only a few hundred skiers could take advantage of it.

There were bright blue skies at Whakapapa today after few days of misery

Auckland

There was a chance of more snow or graupel in the hills around Auckland today, following on from yesterday's unusual snow shower in the city.

However New Zealand's biggest city was spared another taste of what much of the rest of the country has experienced, and chilly southerly winds were the order of the day.

Check the weather for Auckland here.

The New Zealand Transport Agency has the latest highway conditions.

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