Heavy snow risk as early spring storm batters country with gusts up to 150kmh


Snow is forecast to fall to 500 metres in parts of the South Island on Thursday and could be low in southern areas, as severe gales continue to batter much of the South Island and bottom of the North Island.

Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, MetService recorded a gust of 148kmh at Cape Turnagain on the lower North Island’s east coast, while at South West Cape on Stewart Island gusts got to 135kmh.

For Thursday, MetService is forecasting a chance of heavy snow down to 500 metres in parts of Southland, Clutha, Central Otago and inland from Dunedin.

The Homer Tunnel, on the Milford Road, has been closed for three days because of snow and avalanche danger.

NZ Transport Agency/Stuff

The Homer Tunnel, on the Milford Road, has been closed for three days because of snow and avalanche danger.

Snow is also forecast down to 500m in Canterbury, North Otago, the Southern Lakes and possibly to 500m in Westland.

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Northwest gusts could get to 130kmh in exposed places in the Wellington area from Thursday morning through to early Friday, and in the Canterbury High Country through to Thursday night, MetService said.

Gusts could get to 120kmh in Marlborough on Thursday, in northern Wellington and southern Wairarapa from Thursday afternoon to early Friday, and on the southern coast of Fiordland, Stewart Island, Southland and Otago through to late Thursday morning.

Auckland avoids the wild weather to the south, with a dry Thursday forecast. Some morning cloud is predicted and northwesterlies are expected to develop.

It’s a different story in Wellington, where gusts to 130kmh in exposed places are expected from afternoon, and patchy drizzle is forecast for the north of the city.

Christchurch is forecast to have high cloud with strong northwesterlies gusting 90kmh in exposed places, then rain developing in the evening with a southerly change.

Snow could fall on the Milford Road, Crown Range Road and Lindis Pass for a time later on Thursday, and on Porters Pass from late Thursday evening through to early Friday.

Snow could fall to 500 metres on Thursday in many parts of the South Island.

ALDEN WILLIAMS/STUFF/Stuff

Snow could fall to 500 metres on Thursday in many parts of the South Island.

On Wednesday, the Milford Road was closed for a third day, with snow blanketing the area and the Homer Tunnel portals.

Agency Milford Road alliance manager Kevin Thompson said the avalanche risk has also been assessed as high.

The New Zealand Transport Agency Waka Kotahi issued winds warning for several highways in Southland and Otago as the regions continue to be lashed by northwesterly gales on Wednesday.

The heaviest rain on Thursday is expected in the ranges of southern Westland, but heavy rain is also possible in the Westland northern ranges, the headwaters of the Canterbury lakes and rivers and the headwaters of the Otago lakes and rivers.

The Tararua Range could also have heavy rain between late Thursday night and Friday morning.