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A big winter storm in the Southern Ocean is closing in on New Zealand with severe gales, heavy rain and snow expected right across both islands.

A warm nor’wester has already developed over the far South, preceeding a cold front that will arrive around midnight tomorrow.  Parts of Southland and Otago are already in double figures as the warm winds – which so far have been relatively quiet this year – pick up.

By tonight winds are likely to becoming very strong, prompting MetService to issues Severe Gale warnings.  Southern and eastern regions of the South Island and the lower North Island may see gusts to 130km/h overnight tonight. 

Head weather analyst Philip Duncan says many of these regions can handle winds this strong with relatively little damage, but he warns that after a relatively quiet several months people may be caught unaware.  “Put away outdoor furniture, avoid driving tonight if possible, and take care going for that morning jog on Saturday as winds may bring down branches”.

Meanwhile a burst of Antarctic air following the front will see snow falling to low levels late on Saturday and during Sunday right across Southland, Otago and Canterbury.  “We are expecting snow in Queenstown and on the Dunedin hill suburbs.  In the North Island the Rimutaka Ranges may receive a dusting, and that coupled with severe gales will mean treacherous driving conditions”.

Duncan says there’s also a risk of snow on the Desert Road on Sunday.

“By Sunday night all of New Zealand will be feeling the cold.  Highs in the South Island will be lucky to make it into double digits”.



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