26 Jun 2012

Heavy snow and gale force wind warnings in South Island

9:47 pm on 26 June 2012

MetService has issued a severe weather warning for parts of the South Island.

Snow is falling to sea level in Southland and Fiordland with heavy snow above 200 metres.

It is also falling at about 200 metres in Buller and Westland with heavy snow above 400 metres.

MetService warns the snow could disrupt roads and damage powerlines and trees, and the Transport Agency is warning drivers to take extreme care and carry chains and a cell phone.

The Desert Road was closed on Tuesday night after heavy snow.

MetService is also warning motorists to look out for snow on the high alpine passes.

The Milford Road, Lewis Pass and Arthur's Pass are expected to accumulate up to 20 centimetres of snow near the summits while the Lindis Pass should receive up to 3 centimetres.

MetService also warns severe gale force winds, thunderstorms, hail and possibly small tornadoes could hit western parts of Buller and Nelson Wednesday morning.

Gale force winds with gust of up to 120 kilometres per hour are also expected in localised areas of the Catlins, and the Clutha and Dunedin districts from Wednesday evening until Thursday morning.

MetService says the winds could topple trees and powerlines and make driving hazardous.