South Island in the grasp of wintery blast

  • 08/08/2015
(Photo / Maxwell Cole)
(Photo / Maxwell Cole)

Several motorists were rescued from trapped cars when snow closed a mountain pass in the South Island.

The cars were stuck on State Highway 73 between Otira and the West Coast on Friday night, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) says.

Police and NZTA contractors removed the cars or the passengers were taken to safety for the night, says NZTA manager Lee Wright.

He said the Lewis Pass also had 400mm of snow, which placed a heavy burden on trees.

"It's estimated that some of the snow bombs are up to three quarters of a tonne so no work can be done in these areas until they fall," he said.

The weather is fine and sunny on Saturday morning, which will help with clearing operations.

Roads are icy, which may delay their reopening until mid-morning or later.

On State Highway 70, ice is making driving treacherous through the Pusey Gorge, between Geraldine and Fairlie.

Chains are essential on many open routes in the South Island.

Snow fell across the South Island on Friday night but it's melting in most low level areas, It also reports snow fell briefly in Dunedin and Christchurch and there were heavier falls inland.

Snow flurries are possible within the next 24 hours in Southland, Otago and Canterbury and Sunday will be a cold day.

Mt Hutt ski area in Canterbury reported it has 43cm of new snow.

"We're working on road clearing and avalanche control but hope to be open later in the day when the snow/cloud is forecast to clear away to a fine sunny afternoon."