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Snow to “unusually low” levels this weekend – 19 warnings issued.

Holiday weekend travel mayhem possible

Get ready for heavy snow this long weekend – a polar blast bigger than last weeks wintry spell is about to spread the length of New Zealand with snow to extremely low levels.

On Monday and forecaster BlueSkies talked about a wintry blast this weekend and this afternoon government forecaster MetService has issued over a dozen snow warnings for the country with snow to sea level in the South Island and as low as 200 or 300 metres as far north as the Gisborne ranges.

Head weather analyst Philip Duncan says the snow levels forecast are extremely rare.  “It certainly isn’t normal to hear of snow levels of 200 metres in the North Island and certainly not as far north as Central Plateau and East Cape”.

Yesterday predicted snow levels as low as 700 metres as far north as the Coromandel Peninsula.  “We may well see a dusting of snow even lower on the Hunua ranges just south of Auckland”.

MetService describes the snow levels as “unusually low”.

Mr Duncan says the heavy snow predictions couldn’t have come at a worse time for holidaymakers.  “When spoke of this polar storm earlier this week we expected the Desert Road to be closed on Sunday however if these warnings are accurate we could be seeing several major North Island and South Island highways closed on Queens Birthday Monday”.

“If we see major highways closed and large seas in Cook Strait on Monday we could be looking at travel mayhem as holidaymakers try to return home by road, sea and air”.

But Mr Duncan says there is some positive news for travellers.  “We expect conditions to rapidly improve on Monday meaning if highways and airports are closed on Sunday and overnight Sunday they may well open again by noon on Monday.  The problem at this stage is it’s just a little too far out to pinpoint an exact time when things will improve”.

Snow to sea level is expected right up the Canterbury coast with snow down to 100 metres in Kaikoura and Marlborough.  It’s possible the winter storm may affect flights in and out of Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown on Sunday.

You’ll find all current snow warnings here – as of 2:25pm Friday there were 19 warnings in place. will have extensive coverage on this polar blast across the weekend.  For those who are travelling is now available on your iphone and ipod touch so you can keep up with the latest weather news, weather warnings and travel conditions from wherever you are.


Steve on 29/05/2009 10:03am

I wish someone would stop all this global warming, it’s really cranking up my heating bill….

Rachel jennings on 29/05/2009 4:13am

Hi Phil.

Thanks for the information re the latest big blast. It will be interesting to see what it turns out like.


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