The big area of low pressure that has brought three days of rough weather to many parts of the country has weakened a little today but still has some punch left. One of the most active parts of the system – which was centred just west of Greymouth – passed over the South Island and out into the Pacific Ocean this morning.
“Low pressure systems get their energy from the relatively warmer sea waters. When they hit land their ‘fuel supply’ is basically cut off which is why a part of this system has weakened a bit today” says head weather analyst Philip Duncan.
However a number of areas around the system still remain fairly active. “There’s a section south east of New Zealand which is driving some very wintry conditions into Otago and Southland today. There’s also a pool of active shower clouds west of central New Zealand and they’ll move on to mainly western parts of the North Island this afternoon”.
Taupo Weather Watch reporter Laura Drummond says snow fell to low levels around the area last night and this morning. “Snow has fallen on Mount Tauhara this morning – what i would call a considerable covering”.
“Also out at rangateikei, which is 35kms towards Napier from Taupo, farms have snow all over them, around 2 inchs [5.1cms] so my callers tell me… and it was still falling at 8am”.
Tomorrow a small pocket of low pressure is expected to form in the northern Tasman Sea refuelling some more heavy showers for northern New Zealand.
“Because this storm covers such a huge area it really will take a number of days before it fully clears the country” says Mr Duncan. “Tomorrow afternoon or night and then into Monday a very cold southerly will spread up the South Island’s east coast along with a couple of relatively weak cold fronts. This will expose Canterbury to this low for the first time. We’re not anticipating anything too severe but a few light snow flurries may be possible to near sea level along with a bitterly cold wind chill”.
Skies should start to clear quite quickly up the nation’s west coast during Sunday and into Monday as a southerly moves in. “It’ll clear the skies for a number of western and northern regions but it’ll be cold. We may have some big frosts developing next week”.
For some residents in the alpine passes on the mainland, it has been a number of years since they saw such snow depths. Arthurs Pass village has received more than a metre of snow this week and there is a chance of more of the white stuff falling today. Conditions will hopefully ease, later this afternoon.
Further south, Gore had reports of sleet and snow falling last night and motorists are being advised to take care in the wintry conditions.Weather analyst Richard Green says,’For not the first time this winter, roads are chock full of snow inland and particularly on the alpine passes on the mainland. It has been a big dump higher up and although the situation may improve with an easing of the snow later, any clear conditions tonight, will only make the roads more treacherous with ice forming’.
In the North Island, showery conditions throughout the night resulted in some reasonable rainfall totals, with Paeroa receiving some heavy downpours and many centres exposed to the moist nor’wester, north and west of the central high country, did too.
The Desert road continues to be affected by snow and this is likely to continue off and on throughout the day. State highway 58 was closed due to slips, with a number of other inland routes open but marginal.
Down south and snow has closed a number of roads, including Arthurs, Haast and the Lewis Pass, near the turn off to Hanmer Springs and Springs Junction to Reefton.The Homer tunnel was also closed in Fiordland. Snow began to fall to lower levels in the south, closing the route between Clinton and Mataura on SH 93. Other roads are also impassable and a close watch is being maintained on many inland roads, with chains essential on some. Transit will update the situation at 8 o’clock this morning.
Temperatures overnight were, not surprisingly, around the freezing mark in the south, whereas in Kaitaia, Whangarei and Whitianga, the nor’wester kept the thermometer in double figures, even in amongst some heavy showers.
The mercury looks as if it will hit the mid-teens in the north of the country today, however further south and particularly inland, the only way they will experience that, is with the heater on indoors or by sitting near a roaring fire!