16 Aug 2008

Wintry weather shuts three Mainland highways

10:03 pm on 16 August 2008

Three state highways in the South Island are closed due to snow.

State Highway 94 from Te Anau to Milford Sound is closed because of heavy snow and fallen trees. There is also a moderate avalanche risk in the area.

Snow has also shut State Highway 93 from Clinton to Mataura in south Otago and State Highway 65, between O'Sullivan's Bridge and Maruia.

Several other roads are only open to vehicles with chains and the Transport Agency says snow in Southland is making some roads treacherous.

The police in the Bay of Plenty are warning motorists to take extra care on State Highway 5 in the Mamaku Ranges.

Weather conditions are described as treacherous and the road may have to be closed.

The Desert Road in the central North Island reopened on Saturday morning but heavy snow has made the roads to the Whakapapa and Turoa skifields impassable.

Longer ski season

With so much snow, the skifields expect the season at Turoa to be extended until November.

The area has received its biggest falls since the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 which caused record snows the following winter.

Skifields spokesperson Mike Smith says that year the depth of snow base was 4m and this year it is already well past 3m.

He says 25cm of snow has fallen each day since the middle of last week and it is not forecast to let up until Tuesday.

Mr Smith says he watched in amazement on Friday morning as snow groomers went past his second floor office window at eye level.