November 30, 2023

Polar blast: New Zealand slammed by gales, heavy rain, snow to sea level, 29 alerts issued

The lightning strikes over the South Island. Photo / MetService

More than 1700 lightning strikes have blasted the South Island in the past two hours as wild weather, bringing wind, snow and heavy rain marches up the island.

This morning MetService has increased its weather alerts for the coming storm, issuing 29 warnings and watches across the South and North Islands. Severe gales, heavy rain and snow to sea level are set to envelop central and southern New Zealand starting from this evening.

The lower North Island is being warned to brace for destructive gales and those in the South Island are advised that snow could affect roads and bring stress to livestock.

Already today the West Coast has been blasted by around 1700 lightning bolts between 6am and 8am as electrical storms march up the South Island.

The rain started falling in Fiordland overnight before moving up the West Coast. Meanwhile temperatures have already hit a balmy 20C in Christchurch, expected to rise to 25C with gales stronger than 100 km/h set to blast the region.

Southland, Clutha, Dunedin, Central Otago and Southern Lakes can also expect heavy snow between 8pm tonight and 11am tomorrow.

A strong wind watch for Clutha, Southland, Stewart Island and Fiordland came into force yesterday. MetService is warning people that gales may reach severe speeds in these areas.

Further north in Wellington and the Wairarapa strong winds are forecast to batter the region from 6am this morning bringing with them the chance of powerlines being downed, and drivers being buffeted by strong gusts.

Severe gales could reach 120km/h in exposed places up until 8pm this evening.

In Hawke’s Bay and Hastings, people should be on watch for strong winds with MetService issuing a strong wind watch between the hours of 9am this morning and 7am on Friday.

Orange heavy rain warnings have been issued for Westland about and south of Otira and the headwaters of Canterbury Lakes and Rivers about and south of Arthur’s Pass from this evening and for Westland north of Otira, and Buller from tomorrow morning.

MetService says thunderstorms and up to 150mm of rain are likely across many of these areas.

Meanwhile, a 23-hour orange road snowfall warning is in place for Milford Rd from 10am.

“Rain is forecast to turn to snow at higher levels late Thursday morning, then gradually lower to near sea level Thursday night or overnight. Expect 10 to 20cm of snow to settle on the road above 800metres, with lesser amounts down to near sea level.”

“Snow is expected to lower to near sea level. Heavy snowfall is possible above 300metres, where amounts may approach warning criteria.

Road snowfall warnings are also in place from this evening for the Haast Pass, Lindis Pass, Lewis Pass, Arthur’s Pass, Crown Range Road and on State Highway 1 between Dunedin and Waitati.

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