Updated 7:09am — Many more flights have been cancelled and delayed at Wellington Airport this morning as gale force southerlies continue to strengthen, now with gusts to 115km/h.
The gales are expected to peak around Wellington City and the airport this morning. WeatherWatch.co.nz expects more flight delays and cancellations across the day at Wellington Airport (which will affect other flights in other airports).
Not all flights are having problems – so check Wellington Airport’s website and the airline too for full details. The smallest aircrafts will be most likely to be unable to fly in these conditions. While the winds peak later this morning the gales are likely to last the entire day, not easing back until tonight.
RAIN AND SNOW NOW SETTING IN:
There is a chance the Desert Road may get 50cms (half a metre) of snow from this event across yesterday, Thursday and Friday. Snow drifts may be even higher, up to a metre in some exposed central North Island high altitude areas if enough moisture comes in. It’s certainly possible, but the rain and snow clouds are quite patchy at the moment.
“For the North Island the heavy snow is only just getting started” says head weather forecaster Philip Duncan.
“This deepening low will overnight push more moisture into the North Island, from the east, creating heavy rain for eastern regions like Wairarapa and Hawke’s Bay which will turn to heavy snow on the mountains, ranges and Central Plateau”.
As of 7am Thursday rain was fairly widespread across the lower North Island, turning to snow above above 400 metres.
Last year a similar set up dumped over a metre of snow on the Hawke’s Bay ranges. While not saying this is a repeat of that completely, there are similarities.
This isn’t an Antarctic blast but we’re in the depths of winter and severe weather is likely in some parts of the North Island with heavy rain and heavy snow – plus strong winds.
WeatherWatch.co.nz says road closures, or delays, are quite likely on most if not all Central North Island State Highways, including the Desert Road and SH5 the Napier Taupo highway, where some snow has already been reported to WeatherWatch.co.nz. However if the snow falls in bursts with dry spells roads may still be accessible. Check the NZTA website for travel details – they will list any current closures or problems. On a side note – thanks to the workers out on the State Highways keeping the icy/snowy roads open around the country. It’s tough work in conditions like this.
“Our forecast rain radar is showing the heavy snow for the North Island is a Thursday/Friday event, with mostly passing showers and dry spells for much of Wednesday” says Mr Duncan. “More dry spells may continue into Thursday and Friday, due to the narrowness of this band of precipitation and the effect of the mountains and ranges across the central, eastern and lower North Island”.
IT’S NOT JUST “PRECIPITATION” – IT’S GALES TOO
The word “precipitation” is used by forecasters because it’s one word to say “wet stuff from the sky”. It can be snow, rain, drizzle, hail, graupel, showers, snow, sleet etc.
So moving away from Precipitation and we next focus on Wind.
As WeatherWatch.co.nz has been saying all week, this isn’t a “storm” but the ‘squash zone’ between that deepening low just east of the North Island and the incoming high pressure system for the weekend is creating a belt of gales through the Cook Strait area. As the low deepens the winds wrap around the low more.
A storm has gales all the way around it – this low only has gales in one quarter – and that’s the ‘squash zone’ of air pressure between the deepening low near the North Island and the high over the Tasman Sea.
However, sometimes the wind maps look worse than they may be. Like a car going around a sharp corner you feel the weight pull to one side. The wind can do the same thing as it pulls around the low, shifting a lot of the worst winds/energy through Cook Strait and out to sea. So not everyone will have gales or strong winds, especially near the centre which is fairly calm.
But this belt of gales – which may reach severe gale through Cook Strait – is going to brush populated areas too. The worst of these winds will develop overnight tonight around Cook Strait and affect Wellington and the lower North Island, south of about Masterton/Palmerston North. The wind direction will be South to South East. The winds peak on Thursday over the lower half of the North Island.
By Friday it will be cold and a bit windy over the North Island but as the low tracks east away from New Zealand it will send another burst of strong winds into exposed eastern areas, like Wairoa, Mahia Peninsula and Gisborne. Severe gales are possible there on Friday from the South East.
So to recap – worst of the South to South East winds will be on Thursday, starting before dawn. Easing on Friday, except Wairoa and Gisborne area.
Worst affected areas: Thursday: Mostly the lower North Island, south of Masterton/Palmerston North. But also Taranaki area. Friday: Mostly East Cape, Gisborne, Northern Hawke’s Bay.
Your taxes fund the New Zealand Government Agency MetService to provide weather warnings and watches to the public, keep up to date with them too.
FARMERS – WIND CHILL WILL BE SUBZERO AND HARSH ON NEWBORNS
Finally, cold rough weather is always to be expected in mid July – but a few farmers do have early season lambs and calves. If so, please do keep in mind the wind chill, which could be several degrees lower than the air temperature, especially with so much moisture in the air.
The wind direction for most will be south to south east, with rain and snow tracking in from the east.
Daytime highs in communities above 500m may struggle to climb above 1 to 4 degrees over the next two days with ‘feels like’ temperatures at night falling to -5 and beyond.