Monday, August 15, 2011

Great days in New Zealand mountaineering;: [the rock and snow]Snow Guide to Australia & New Zealand

More snow will strike much of New Zealand today - turning the novelty into far more treacherous conditions, police say. 

The polar blast that brought snow to downtown Auckland for the first time in 72 years - and created the city's coldest day on record - is set to worsen in many parts of the North and South Islands. 

Snow continued to fall in Wellington, Kapiti Coast, Wairarapa, Wanganui, Taihape and much of the South Island last night, stranding thousands of air travellers and motorists. Snow forced the closure of Wellington Airport's runway, with each flight being assessed case by case. 

WeatherWatch last night predicted more snow in 29 cities and towns by this evening - including the capital, Christchurch, Dunedin and Taupo - and a medium risk of more snow flurries in Auckland overnight and in Napier, Hastings, Rotorua and New Plymouth today.
Climate scientist Georgina Griffiths of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research said yesterday was the coldest day ever recorded in Auckland.

The temperature got up to only 8.2C - compared with the previous lowest high of 8.7C, on July 4, 1996.

The last time snow settled on the ground in the city was 1939. It fell to ground level at the airport in 1976. 

The snow caused waves of excitement in Auckland. Kevin Prohl saw a snow flurry as he was driving around Western Springs and described it as a fairy tale. "Looking at oncoming drivers and seeing their smiles as we were fascinated by this unusual occurrence - it was truly delightful to see, yet all too short." 

Richard Brown, 53, has lived in Auckland his entire life and had never seen snow in the city. "It was snow, I'm sure it was." 

While many Aucklanders were delighted with the light flurry of snow - the result of weather MetService described as close to a one-in-50-year-event - the high winds created havoc. Four people were injured when a tree toppled on to a house in Pakuranga. 

The cold snap also wreaked havoc further south including the quake-devastated eastern suburbs of Christchurch. Power was cut to hundreds of homes, mail postponed, schools were shut for the day and heavy snow made it too dangerous to drive on. 

Police warned last night that conditions would get more treacherous. 

Many state highways were closed, including the Desert Road and Rimutaka Hill road in the North Island and the Lewis Pass and Arthurs Pass in the South Island.
"We're warning drivers that, unlike today where the snow was a clearly visible hazard, there will be large areas of ice on the roads tomorrow, especially in rural and shaded areas, that you will not be able to see," said Inspector Al Stewart, of Christchurch police. 

Motorists were also warned of the dangers of black ice - where snow melts then freezes again - forming on the roads today. 

And the wild weather is set to continue. MetService forecaster Matt Naeraa said the big chill would cover much of the country for the next three days. 

More snow was expected in Auckland today - down to 200m above sea level, said Mr Naeraa.
MetService duty forecaster Heath Gullery said snow could fall on the Southern Motorway around the Bombay Hills again today and there would possibly sleet at sea level.

In the Wellington region, five main roads were closed and 24 crashes were reported yesterday. 

"We've been getting calls from people getting stuck on the road, or cars sliding down the driveway and getting stuck in the gutter. We've got quite a lot going on," Inspector Ken Climo of the police said. 

Prime Minister John Key commented on "the very uncharacteristic weather" during his post-Cabinet press conference. 

Describing the capital as a "winter wonderland", Mr Key said it was the first time he could recall seeing snow fall in downtown Wellington. 

"My wife tells me there is snow around our house [in Parnell, Auckland]. It's very unusual, and the main message to New Zealanders is just to be cautious and a little bit careful - make sure they keep an eye out for their family and friends, and if they are aware of their neighbours living alone, it might be a good idea just to check up on them and make sure everything is OK." 

While many Aucklanders appeared to enjoy the snow, there was debate among weather experts as to what was actually falling. 

MetService weather ambassador Bob McDavitt said most Aucklanders had witnessed "graupel" - effectively hail with a soft centre. 

Power services were also disrupted yesterday. In the Counties Power area, gusts caused a line to come down, with one fault at a Waiuku substation causing an outage to 7000 homes, but they were back on within about 20 minutes. 

In the central North Island, 2000 homes and businesses lost power but lines company Power Co hoped most of them would be back on the grid last night. 

In the South Island, lines company Orion had 500 homes and businesses without power but most of them had been restored by yesterday afternoon.


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