27 May 2014

Otago highway reopens after icy blast

7:08 pm on 27 May 2014

The last South Island highway shut by a storm at the weekend has been reopened.

The widespread ice left by the storm caused more than a dozen crashes in Dunedin on Tuesday, including a four-vehicle collision which blocked the city's northern motorway. One person was taken to hospital.

Seven motorways throughout the South Island were shut at the peak of the storm on Monday morning.

The New Zealand Transport Agency said the Outram to Middlemarch road, State Highway 87, reopened just after 2pm on Tuesday after being shut for two days by snow up to two metres deep.

The agency said reopening the road involved many vehicles, diggers and ploughs - some of which got stuck and had to be rescued by farmers.

Police reported more than a dozen ice-related accidents around Dunedin, disrupting travel and several bus routes. Police said many of the roads in Otago were like an ice skating rink.

Senior Sergeant Phil Newton, from the Canterbury Highway Patrol, said Canterbury is not as bad, although Johns Road near Christchurch Airport was icy.

Christchurch reached -4 degrees Celsius overnight Tuesday.

Christchurch reached -4 degrees Celsius overnight Tuesday. Photo: PHOTO NZ

The South Island is in for some relief from the winter blast, with the MetService saying weather conditions improved dramatically overnight on Tuesday.

It said only snow down to 500 metres in some parts of the far south, and only some showers are expected for the West Coast on Tuesday.

Temperatures dropped to -4 degrees Celsius in Queenstown and Christchurch, with a low of -5.7 degrees Celsius at Mount Cook.

Meanwhile, South Canterbury is expecting up 175 millimetres of rain by Wednesday. Timaru District Council said such rainfall is likely to lead to swollen rivers, local flooding and slips.

Seed bags are available from seed merchants throughout the region for residents to use as sandbags.

In the lower North Island, 300 homes remain without power in the Tararua and Wairarapa regions on Tuesday after high winds brought down trees on power lines.