Wild weather strands motorists, cuts power to thousands

Central New Zealand was slammed by the bitterly cold winter storm overnight, which saw  thousands of homes lose electricity and roads closed. 

The army rescued around 50 stranded motorists last night, and they spent the night at Waiouru Military camp.

Ruapehu District Council CEO Clive Manley said all available accommodation in the area through to Taumaranui was at full capacity last night.

Contractors will start to get roads open this morning, but he urged people to stay off the roads until conditions improved.

Power outages

Power is still off in Waiouru, including at the military base. Ohakune is also mostly without power.

Power would be intermittent, Mr Manley said, and they could not guarantee even those people with power will have it stay on this morning.

By midday a lot of the faults should have been worked on.

During the night it was not possible to restore power due to the icy conditions, Mr Manley said.

He advised people to check updates, and to not take unnecessary risks on roads he said were treacherous. 

The council is also asking people to conserve water due to power outages.

Weatherwatch analyst Richard Green said frosty conditions on roads will likely cause havoc for motorists on the road again.

He said snow had fallen around 500-600m across the central North Island area, affecting main passes and highways.

Metservice warnings

Severe weather warnings are still in place in many parts of the country on Friday morning.

MetService issued a severe weather watch warning for Northland, Bay of Plenty, Taupo, Taranaki, Whanganui, Hawke's Bay and Gisborne late on Thursday night.

People in these areas are advised to stay up-to-date with the latest forecasts and official warnings as the storm continues to unfold.

The tail end of the storm will continue into Friday night in parts of the country. It's already brought snow, heavy rain and strong winds, and caused disruption to transport and power.

The heaviest snow is expected in the central North Island high country, including higher parts of Hawke's Bay and Manawatu.

Significant rainfall is expected in the lower North Island, especially Wairarapa, Wellington, Kapiti and higher parts of Manawatu.

In addition, warnings for severe gales are still in force for many central parts of the country.

Heavy rainfall warnings are in place for Gisborne and Hawke's Bay until late Friday night.

Severe gale warnings have been issued in Northland until Friday morning, and until Friday night in Gisborne and Hawke's Bay.

Gale-force winds are also expected in eastern parts of Bay of Plenty and Taupo into Friday evening.

Winds have eased in Canterbury, southern Marlborough, Nelson and Auckland, and the MetService-issued watch for these areas has been lifted.

The Desert Road remains closed by snow, and the routes between Gisborne and Opotiki are closed due to a slip.

Meanwhile, the wild weather caused damage in the capital overnight.

Heavy rain and wind caused a slip in the Wellington suburb of Wadestown at around 10pm.

Emergency services responded to find fallen trees, which had taken out powerlines and a car.