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How the Antarctic blast could affect your Travel Plans

Freezing air straight from the Antarctic is about to blast New Zealand bringing snow, hail, sleet, rain and gales later this weekend predicts

As we reported yesterday, snow is predicted to fall to sea level in Southland, Otago and parts of Canterbury with snow to low levels around Wellington and the lower North Island.

Invercargill, Queenstown, Dunedin, Timaru and Christchurch are all predicted to receive snow flurries of varying degrees – it’s still unclear just how heavy it will be, but weather analyst Philip Duncan says much of the South Island south and east of the Southern Alps are exposed to snow showers.

Snow may not settle in all the main centres but the potential is certainly there in the South Island says Mr Duncan.

In the North Island data used by maintains that some North Island centres will be right on the borderline of snow falling – something that is incredibly rare.

“We have data suggesting a high potential for sleet or a snow/rain mix in Wellington’s hilltop suburbs, Taupo, Palmerston North, Masterton and Statford.  It’s unlikely to settle but shows just how cold this southerly change will be”. 

Wairouru, Ohakune and Taihape are expected to be blanketed with snow.

The cold change will reach Southland late on Saturday night then move up the eastern South Island during Sunday and into the North Island overnight Sunday and into Monday.

Meanwhile mild conditions remain across the North Island on Friday afternoon thanks to a large low pulling sub-tropical air over northern New Zealand.  

The live and free Lightning Tracker at has become more active across the afternoon with 178 strikes picked up in the past hour, most in Northland and just north of New Zealand. says a band of rain is currently moving down Northland and will reach Auckland early this evening.  “It’s possible that localised bursts will be very heavy and could cause surface flooding and make driving difficult”.  There is a low risk of isolated thunder or lightning tonight in Auckland and a moderate risk for Northland.

The band of heavy rain in Auckland should ease later this evening but more heavy bursts are possible across the weekend.  The cold change will reach Auckland later on Sunday and into Monday with a biting wind chill of around 7 or 8 degrees at the warmest time of the day.  Hail showers are also possible.

How the snow may impact your travel plans


Numerous South Island roads and highways could be affected by snow and ice right across Southland, Otago, Canterbury and Marlborough, with too roads many to list here, while in the North Island it will be limited to the higher altitude roads. 

Most exposed will be: 

  • SH1 the Desert Road – late Sunday to Tuesday morning.
  • SH2 over the Rimutaka Ranges – Sunday night, Monday morning
  • SH5 the Napier Taupo highway – Overnight Sunday, across Monday.

Air Travel says snow could shut down runways around the South Island, mainly in Southland and Otago on Sunday, or cause some significant delays. 

Strong to gale force southerlies could also cause flight delays and cancellations, especially with small prop aircraft, in the lower North Island on Monday.

Please check with your airline or airport website for more details nearer to the time of your flight.  Please note some delays in the South Island may also affect North Island flights.

By Sea

Southerly swells of 3 to 4 metres are expected in Cook Strait on Monday easing a little on Tuesday, according to  It’s possible there could be delays to some ferry services.  Check with your ferry service closer to the time.



Guest on 22/07/2011 11:26pm

highway 2 gisborne opotiki?

WW Forecast Team on 23/07/2011 12:06am

Hi there – we doubt that road will be affected.  Click here for highway information.


– WW

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