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FAQ’s about the Winter Storm

Updated 2:23pm Thurs — Our winter storm has begun but we’ve still got until Saturday morning to go.  There are many questions being asked – hopefully this covers off the latest.  This page was updated on Thursday morning with the latest.

Will it snow in Wellington?
Snow showers are just like rain showers – and just like when we have showers in the forecast some regions get more than others and often we don’t know exactly how it will look until closer to the time. Snow is even trickier.  In Wellington the snow level will be above the city centre – but into Friday the air temp will drop low enough to see flurries on the hills – but main risk will be late Friday/very early Saturday.  Latest data suggests it may be a degree or two too warm for snow to sea level – but we can’t rule it out.    

Latest Wellington Forecast:

Will it snow in Christchurch?
Our prediction all week has been “most likely’ – but with an uncertainty as to how much.  Some data suggests it may be heavy – other data suggests it might be a snow/rain mix.  Either way the threat for snow is certainly there, especially on Friday, but our main focus all week has been for heavy snow inland.

Latest Christchurch Forecast:

Will it snow in Dunedin?

It’s very likely – most likely overnight, then easing Friday morning. Amounts may not be huge, like rain showers snow showers are scattered.

Latest Dunedin Forecast:

Will it snow in Auckland?
The snow level will likely be 500 metres-plus around Auckland on Friday and Saturday, which is higher than the peaks in Auckland, however downpours may be big enough to blow snow flurries down onto the tops of the Waitakeres, Hunuas and possibly Bombays.  At this stage we doubt many people will even notice, but we’ve mentioned it due to so many questions!

Latest Auckland Forecast:

I don’t live in those centres – will it snow where I live?
We don’t have anything more specific than our latest main centres forecasts – which you’ll find on the main NZ map to the right of this story – and all our videos and news stories our homepage.  Generally speaking Southland, Otago and Canterbury all have high snow risks,  But just like in the snow storm of 2011, NZ’s geography – and the wind flow of this storm – can mean some areas miss out.  In 2011 some parts of Canterbury had very heavy snow while others had none.  That may well happen again this time.  Snow is most likely to start forming across low levels of Otago today then into Canterbury later today and overnight into Friday.

Why is there so much uncertainty?
New Zealand is covered in mountains and surrounded by oceans – these have a major inpact on how our weather looks and feels.  The hills can block snow entirely – or make it worse.  The angle of the wind can also make a huge difference – one angle it will blow through a valley – a slight shift one way or the other might make the difference between snow on the ground or nothing at all.  Finally – NZ just doesn’t get many of these storms for us to build up a pattern of what normally happens.  With the August 2011 snow storm fresh in our minds we are using some of what we learnt from that – however this storms looks as though it might have a little more energy for central NZ – the more the energy is concentrated in one area the less impact it might have nationally.  So we are working with a LOT of variables.  Predicted snow to sea level when the temperatures aren’t below zero is very tricky, not just in NZ but anywhere on earth!

Will I be able to fly?
This storm is big enough and aggressive enough to not just delay flights but to cancel them altogether.  Flights in the Deep South are already being impacted. What we can’t predict is when snow or gales will be heavy enough to stop flights – it’s up to the airlines and pilots to decide whether or not to fly.  For that reason we won’t be commenting on whether flights may or may not go ahead – except to say that there is a fairly high risk of flight delays and cancellations, especially from late Thursday and into Friday.  Please check our forecasts, the MetService warnings, and of course the airline and airport websites.

Can I drive from A to B?
Just like with flying, we can’t predict when roading authorities will close roads or when the police will ask motorists to avoid driving.  However we’d suggest that driving, especially on Thursday and Friday, will be hazardous in many parts of the country.  Check the roading websites for the latest – we expect road closures or delays in both islands.

When will the storm peak?

When is the highest chance for snow?
The snow level will be dropping across the next 24 to 36 hours.  Highest risk for snow in the South Island will be late Thursday and patchy across Friday.  For the North Island it will be Friday night and Saturday AM..

When will it clear up?
It will start to clear up this weekend – with sunny spells returning, but some South Island areas may have more cold wind and showers at some point – but nothing like Thurs and Fri.  Sunday looks to be the most settled for the majority – but it won’t be perfect.

Will the power go out?
Snow weighs a lot when it sits on powerlines – so yes if snow is heavy near you then power cuts may follow.  In Wellington and other central/eastern areas, severe gales may also cut power.  Be prepared to lose power and if you live in an area vulnerable for snow then be prepared to be snowed in too – even if it doesn’t eventuate, it’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.

I live in the North Island – will it snow where I live?
Snow is expected into Friday for some North Island areas. Coastal areas are not expected to receive snow, with the exception of Wellington which has a low to moderate risk of a brief flurry overnight Friday/Sat morning. Snow levels will be around 200m for the lower North Island and 500 to 600m for the upper North Island.  Heavy snow is expected in the eastern ranges and Central Plateau.



Hunter on 20/06/2013 9:59am

Hi there,

How bad will the wind be in Gisborne?

Ben on 20/06/2013 4:59am

1 degree and sleeting here just outside of oxford. I’d say we are gonna cop it tonight?

WW Forecast Team on 20/06/2013 7:48am

You could get some flurries overnight. Might be more interesting towards dawn tomorrow or in the morning in general as another surge moves in.


Guest on 20/06/2013 4:06am

Hi there,
What is the likelihood of the port hills in Christchurch getting snow this evening/tonight? I know the city isn’t expected to get much but the port hills usually do even when the city doesn’t

hitadmin on 20/06/2013 4:28am

Hi there – yes we expect snow to be heavy along the Port Hills – we have more details in our Chch forecasts (as we mention snow levels etc)

– WW

David on 20/06/2013 3:56am

I see most comment about the snow, at this moment I can see by the rain radar loop that the southerly is at the capitals doorstep.
My interest is in how fast and strong the southerly comes in, by the look we may get a smack in the face before too long.
Don’t ya love it!!


hitadmin on 20/06/2013 4:26am

Hi David – this is why we fought so hard against MetService to free up the rain radars – aren’t they just incredible when watching something big move in!  Yes it could roar in within minutes.  Usually, though, it takes an hour or so to crank up – and if really slow it might take all evening to build to severe gale.

Gillian Todd on 20/06/2013 3:47am

Hi there. I tried to put this on the live chat. Do you think it is still possible for snow to fall in Stratford? We are just a little to north east of there (like 8 mins). Got a lots in 2011.
Thanks so much for all your coverage and updates too – brilliant. Cheers 🙂

hitadmin on 20/06/2013 4:26am

Hi there – thanks for the feedback 🙂  Yes we think Stratford has a chance for snow either overnight or across Friday at some point.  Let us know how you get on!  It may not be a lot though – but the risks for it falling are fairly high!



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