The Napier to Taupo road in the central North Island has reopened, with civil defence state of emergency lifted after motorists had to be rescued from snow-stranded vehicles on Sunday.
Vehicles were now being led across the highway by a police escort. The road had been closed since Sunday afternoon, after metre-deep snow stranded more than 700 travellers.
They were put up in emergency shelters in Taupo and Napier and today allowed back to State Highway 5 to retrieve their cars.
Four vehicles blocking the road at Waipunga, 50km southeast of Taupo, had not been claimed.
They would be towed to Taupo and stored there until their owners could be located, Taupo District Council said.
Civil Defence controller Joe Mickelson said a lot of people were relieved to be on their way after being stranded for two nights.
New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) operations manager David Bates said contractors had been working 24 hours a day to clear snow from the highway.
They would continue to apply grit and de-icing agent and monitor the road’s conditions.
Contractors had also removed trees and repaired power poles which were brought down by snow.
Motorists were advised to drive with extreme caution as the roads remained icy.
The Napier-Taihape Road remained closed from Kuripapango, 80km northwest of Taihape, and would not reopen before tomorrow.
The Desert Road from Waiouru to Turangi also remained closed but was likely to reopen this evening, NZTA said.
Around 220 households remained without power following snow in the Hawke’s Bay high country. A number of poles came down in heavy snow, and trees had struck power lines.
Power supplier Unison expected to return power to around 140 customers today.
Unison spokesman Danny Gough said some areas could still be without power for another two or three days.
The icy blast also cut power to about 400 rural properties between Hawke’s Bay and Taupo, leaving farmers unable to milk cows.
The cold weather wiped out hundreds of newborn lambs in the and farmers have been urged to ensure lambs, and their mothers, had access to shelter.
– NZPA, NZHERALD.CO.NZ