Wild weather on the way for central and south NZ

The bus blown off the Fairlie-Tekapo Rd (Emma Cropper)
The bus blown off the Fairlie-Tekapo Rd (Emma Cropper)

Heavy rain and severe gales are expected across southern and central New Zealand today, with a bus already being blown off the road in the South Island. 

A bus has driven off the road due to high winds on the Fairlie-Tekapo Road in Burkes Pass. The driver, who was treated at the scene, and the 29 Indonesian tourists on board have been taken to a nearby hotel. Winds were causing issues for high-sided vehicles in the area a fire service spokesperson says. 

The bus was on a nine day tour of New Zealand. The group was heading to Christchurch from Tekapo when the wind proved too much. Marsha Santosr, a passenger on the bus, says it was "terrifying".

"The bus was shaking really bad," she says.

The group are now safe and back to having fun she says, while they waited to get to Christchurch. 

The group of passengers were taken to a nearby hotel after the incident (Emma Cropper)

A front moving over the Tasman Sea has already brought surface flooding to Wanaka, where drivers are warned to take care.

The active front is likely to bring the heaviest rain to the west of New Zealand, with spillover to the east of the Southern Alps. Westland could see 25 to 40mm of rainfall per hour this afternoon and evening.

Heavy rain warnings

A rain warning remains active in Westland, which is likely to see the heaviest rainfall of up to 350mm, with 130mm about the coast. Heavy rain warnings are also in places for Fiordland north of Doubtful Sound, Otago Headwaters, Canterbury lakes and rivers, Buller, northwest Nelson and Mt Taranaki.

Strong winds could cause damage

The north to northwest gales of 130km/h to 140km/h could damage trees, powerlines and roofs through areas of Canterbury, Wellington, Wairarapa and Marlborough.

A watch for severe gales has been extended to include Whanganui and Taihape.

The New Zealand Transport Authority warns drivers in high-sided vehicles and motorcyclists to take extra care, with high winds battering Twizel to Fairlie.

Weather warnings for the roads near Tekapo (Emma Cropper)

Snow expected

The higher roads and passes in the Southern Lakes area could be affected by snow which is expected at 900 metres in southern Fiordland on Wednesday night.

On Thursday, Metservice predicts snow lowering to 300 metres in the far south.

The Desert Road was temporarily closed this morning due to a crash caused by icy conditions. The road has now reopened fully.

Cardrona Alpine Resort is reporting lots of snow dumping down and advised dedicated skiers to dress warm.

Both Mt Hutt Ski Area and Porters Ski Area are closed today due to strong winds, but the forecast is looking better for Thursday.

Treble Cone Ski Area is also closed due to bad weather. The heavy rain will hopefully turn into snow as the temperature drops.

The Remarkables is reporting spring-like conditions before the cold weather hits. Across the valley, Coronet Peak is closed because of high winds. 

Snow at Cardrona is keeping skiers happy (Cardrona Alpine Resort)

Today's weather warnings

- Wind warnings for gales up to 140kmh from Wairarapa to Canterbury

- Heavy rain warnings for Nelson, West Coast and Taranaki

- Snow expected in central Otago

- SH8 in from Fairlie to Twizel has an ice warning in place

- SH94 from Te Anau to Milford Sound also has an ice warning