14 Aug 2011

Cold blast sweeps up the country

10:21 pm on 14 August 2011

Roads across the lower South Island and north of Wellington are closed as an Antarctic storm sweeps up the country.

About 150 stranded travellers are spending Sunday night at Dunedin Airport, which has been snowed in.

Dunedin is the worst affected area in the south, with the city's airport closed and four aircraft grounded.

The airport's chief executive John McCall says people have been given blankets and heating will be kept on overnight.

He says some travellers have managed to get out of the airport by four wheel drive but the majority will be staying overnight.

Queenstown airport was also closed earlier by snow.

The storm has closed the hill roads around Wellington including the Rimutaka Hill Road, where 100 people who were stranded in their cars had to be rescued by police.


On Sunday evening power was out to several hundred homes in Upper Hutt and Plimmerton north of the capital.

Meanwhile, power has been restored to nearly 3000 homes in Tawa in Porirua.

Snow fell in Palmerston North and Feilding and power is out to about 1500 people in the Wairarapa, Bulls and Rangitikei districts.

Road closures

Police are warning the public to avoid all non essential travel in the Wellington area.

Most hill roads in the wider Wellington area are affected by snow, including SH2 at Mount Bruce and the Rimutaka Hill Road which are closed.

The Desert Road is also closed.

MetService says an extremely cold southerly will bring a significant amount of snow to Fiordland, Southland and Otago on Sunday night.

In the lower South Island, snow and ice has forced the closure of a number of state highways, including SH1 north of Dunedin, and SH93 from Clinton to Mataura.