New Zealand's south island has been blanketed in heavy snow, closing schools and airports

BARRY HARCOURT/STUFF

Snow is blanketing parts of New Zealand’s south island, closing roads and schools, cancelling flights and causing power outages.

The Lindis Pass in Otago has closed, and cars are reportedly stranded on the Crown Range between Queenstown and Wanaka.

Parts of Queenstown Lakes, including Queenstown, Arrowtown and Glenorchy, are without power after heavy snow and snow-laden tree branches caused problems, Aurora Energy said.

All schools in Queenstown and Arrowtown are closed today.

Queenstown Airport remained open, although many flights were cancelled.

The New Zealand Avalanche Advisory says conditions are “very dangerous” in parts of the South Island.

MetService meteorologist Andy Best said the snowfall was “not at all really” a surprise.

“It won’t last very long … it’s going away later this afternoon and tonight and it all turns to rain and then over the next few days there’s a ridge of high pressure that builds over the South Island and it clears up.

“It’s pretty normal.”

Widespread weather warnings are in place for the south of the country as a front moves northwards up the country, preceded by a strong northwesterly flow and followed by cold southerlies.

At 6.30am on Monday, a MetService meteorologist said: “We have had some reports of snow. There is a reasonable amount onf the Crown Range Road … and then some in Queenstown as well.

DEBBIE JAMIESON/STUFF

“We’ve had about 10 centimetres at the Homer Tunnel (on the road to Milford Sound) and it’s still falling there and [it’s] also snowing in Te Anau and Manapouri and inland parts of Southland.”

Queenstown Airport’s webcams revealed extensive snow had fallen overnight.

At 7am, the airport said on Twitter: “The airport is open however heavy snow continues to fall. All flights scheduled to arrive or depart before 10am have been cancelled. Please contact your airline for [further] information and drive carefully today.”

The front had moved over the lower South Island overnight on Sunday, bringing with it heavy rain and snow and it’s expected to move slowly northeastwards during Monday.

In Central Otago and the Southern Lakes Sunday about 15cm of snow was expected to accumulate above 500 metres overnight and even more above 800m, MetService predicted.

A snow warning is in place for the regions until 3pm Monday.

In Southland and Fiordland, snow was to lower to 300 metres overnight Sunday. North and west of Lumsden, about 15cm was expected to fall above 500cm and significant amounts above 800 metres.

South Island roads at high altitudes are all at risk of snow.

Haast Pass (SH6) may receive snow on Monday, but it’s not expected to settle.

On the Lindis Pass (SH8), rain is expected to turn to snow on Monday morning, then ease on Monday evening. Between 9am and 9pm Monday, four to 8cm of snow may accumulate on the road near the summit,with lesser amounts down to 500 metres.

On the Crown Range Road, rain is expected to turn to snow during Monday morning, then ease in the evening. Between 3am and 9pm Monday, 25 to 40cm of snow may accumulate near the top of the road, with lesser amounts to 300 metres.

The Milford Road (SH94) from Te Anau to Milford Sound was closed on Monday morning due to snow.

Between 2am and 6pm Monday, 25 to 35cm may accumulate on the road near the Homer Tunnel, with lesser amounts down to 400 metres.

On the Dunedin to Waitati Highway (SH1), rain may turn to snow about higher parts of the road for a time during Monday morning and afternoon, but little if any snow is expected to settle.

NZTA issued a road snow warning for SH 6 from Five Rivers to Kingston on Monday morning, urging caution.

It also issued a high wind warning for SH 87 Outram to Kyeburn.

DEBBIE JAMIESON/STUFF

A different picture in the north

The North Island is expected to be much warmer than the south on Monday, with the major centres expecting temperatures 15 degrees Celsius or above.

Rain and cloudy conditions are likely in many areas, with some sun in eastern parts and temperatures over 20C possible in the Hawke’s Bay.

Heavy rain warnings

Metservice had a warning in place for Westland south of Otira until 5pm Monday. Between 120-180mm of rain is expected to accumulate about the ranges, and 60-90mm near the coast, with peak rates of up to 25 mm per hour about the ranges.

The Canterbury headwaters about and south of Arthur’s Pass also have a warning in place until 5pm Monday.

Up to 160mm of rain is expected to accumulate about the main divide, and up to 100mm within 20km further east, with peak rates up top 25mm per hour about the main divide.

In the Otago Headwaters, a warning is in place until 12 noon, with up to140mm of rain to accumulate about the main divide, and up to 100mm within 20km further east.

Peak rates up to 25mm per hour are expected, and most of the precipitation will fall as snow.

Fiordland north of Doubtful Sound has a warning in place until 10am Monday with up to 100mm of rain expected.

A heavy rain watch was also in place for Dunedin near the coast from 9am until 11pm Monday.

Severe weather watch

There are other areas that need to keep an eye out.

North Otago, Inland Dunedin and Clutha are all subject to a heavy snow watch on Monday with snow lowering to 300m and significant amounts above 500m.

The Canterbury high country, Central Otago and the Southern Lakes are forecast to get northwesterly winds may approach severe gale at times in exposed places on Monday.

The outlook

A front over central New Zealand is expected to weaken on Tuesday as it moves slowly northeastwards over the North Island, according to MetService.

Meanwhile, a subtropical low moves southeastwards to the northeast of the North Island.

There is a low risk that rainfall accumulations could approach warning amounts about Northland, northeast parts of Auckland, Coromandel Peninsula on Tuesday, and about northern parts of Gisborne during Tuesday to Wednesday, with a low risk of heavy rain about Mt Taranaki on Tuesday.

A ridge should move to central New Zealand from the west on Wednesday, with strengthening northwesterlies developing over the South Island ahead of another front.

That front is expected to move onto the South Island on Thursday, with moderate confidence of rain accumulations approaching warning amounts about Fiordland and southern Westland on Thursday before the front weakens over the South Island on Friday.

This article was originally published by Stuff.co.nz Read the original here.

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