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Blizzards, big seas, may affect holidaymakers

A polar blast this holiday weekend is set to end Autumn on a wintry note and may have a significant affect on travel plans for holidaymakers across both islands according to

A pool of bitterly cold air from very near the Antarctic ice caps is expected to surge up New Zealand starting in the deep south on Saturday night and heading to northern New Zealand during Sunday. head weather analyst Philip Duncan says roads across the Central Plateau and parts of the South Island are likely to be affected as blizzards move in.  “We expect solid snow falls across the Desert Road on Sunday which may last between 24 and 36 hours”.  The Weather Watch Centre predicts Waiouru’s high will be just 2 or 3 degrees on Sunday.  Snow may also affect other highways around the central North Island including State Highway 5 from Taupo to Napier.  Snow is expected to low levels around Taupo.

Mr Duncan says light snow is likely to fall as far north as the Coromandel Peninsula, Kaimai Ranges and Hunua ranges, just south of Auckland.  “While snow over the Coromandel and Kaimai ranges will be light and wont affect motorists it’s timely to advise trampers in northern New Zealand to be prepared for more alpine conditions this weekend”.  Mr Duncan says snow flurries are possible along the Kaimai and Coromandel ranges on Sunday or overnight Sunday to as low as 700 metres.  “Snow falling so far north is a clear sign of how cold the air is going to be”.

The South Island is also in the firing line with strong southerlies and snow showers creating blizzard conditions from time to time across Sunday in some parts of Otago and Canterbury.  “Some places may only reach 4 or 5 degrees on Sunday, with wind chills well below zero.  Driving will be hazardous in exposed areas with icy roads and visibility reduced to near zero without warning”.

It’s unclear at this early stage if snow will affect Christchurch but Mr Duncan says it will be “very close” to snowing with sleet expected in most South Island main centres. is predicting a high of just 5 degrees in Christchurch.

Queenstown and Dunedin are both expected to have snow, starting overnight Saturday and easing during late Sunday. 

Wellington will again have strong to gale southerlies developing late on Sunday and through Monday and highs of around 8 degrees.  Swells as high as 8 metres are possible south of Wellington with swells around 5 metres through Cook Strait.  “The big seas may have an impact on ferry crossings on Monday but it’s too early to know how big the impact will be”. 

Big swells are also expected along the west coast of Auckland and Northland over the weekend.

Monday should see conditions quickly improving in many places with a strong, very cold, southerly.  “Daytime highs will be single digits or below 13 for most centres across New Zealand for Sunday and Monday…quite timely for the first day of winter on Monday”.

Meanwhile the place to be this long weekend is again the South Island’s West Coast.  Mostly sunny skies and dry southerlies should prevail over the 3 day weekend.


Diana on 29/05/2009 1:51am

err.. Does that mean we shall be ok for the wedding tomorrow afternoon Phil

WW Forecast Team on 29/05/2009 3:00am

Hi Diana,

Check our Queens Birthday forecast around 4pm – that’s the time of our next update.  Hopefully will answer your question.


The Weather Watch Team

Hiker on 28/05/2009 9:53pm

awesome. might have to go climb mt te aroha on sunday (yip dont worry we will be kitted up and know the track well – promise no emergency call outs hehe) would be so cool to see a bit of snow up there!! photos too i hope

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