As it happened: Icy blast sweeps the country

Wild weather continues around the country, with rain, wind and snow bringing plunging temperatures.

Follow our live updates below.

What to expect

- Cold southerlies are bringing plunging temperatures to most of the country 

- Central and lower North Island can expect strong winds and heavy rain

- Drivers told to avoid unnecessary travel in central North Island and Waikato

- Snow overnight has closed roads in the South Island

Closed highways

North Island:

- SH1, SH46, SH47, SH49 and SH4 around the Central Plateau

- SH3 Ashhurst To Woodville

- SH5 Taupo to Napier

- S41 Manunui To Kuratau

South Island:

- SH7 Springs Junction to Hanmer Springs

- SH70 Peketa to Waiau

- SH73 Springfield to Arthur's Pass and to Otira

- SH85 Kyeburn to Palmerston

5:15pm: The cold blast is expected to continue on Friday. MetService warns there could be black ice on the roads tomorrow morning, and temperatures in the negatives across the South Island.

4:45pm: Photos show the impassable roads in Ohakune, with thick snow and fallen trees blocking the way.

A motorist is stuck in the snow.
A motorist is stuck in the snow. Photo credit: Kristin Thompson
As it happened: Icy blast sweeps the country
Photo credit: Kristin Thompson

4:35pm: Windy Wellington is living up to its reputation with gusts as strong as 130km/h in Kelburn. At the airport winds have peaked at 110km/h.

4:20pm: Drivers should take extra care with ice expected on the roads on Thursday night and Friday morning.

The New Zealand transport Agency (NZTA) warns all areas that have experienced snow today will likely ice over.

"As well as the passes – Lewis, Lindis, Burkes and Arthur’s Pass, hilly areas like Banks Peninsula will also be prone to ice and in Otago, SH85 Becks to Kyeburn and Palmerston," says NZTA journey manager Lee Wright.

"Drivers need to slow down on gritted roads."

State Highway 73 between the West Coast and Canterbury will remain closed until at least Friday morning. The Lewis Pass, State highway 7, is the only route open between Canterbury and the West Coast.

4:05pm: MetService says today's storm marks the first "significant event" of the winter season.

"It's the first big cold snap this winter which is why it might feel extra chilly," forecaster Angus Hines told Newshub.

"Compared to previous winters this is nothing out of the ordinary but it has been a significant event. We are bound so see some further cold snaps this winter."

Mr Hines says more areas of the country will be "in the firing line" tomorrow.

3:55pm: A crane can be seen submerged in the water in the Manuwatu River, near State Highway 2.

The crane is submerged next to a bridge in the Manuwatu River.
The crane is submerged next to a bridge in the Manuwatu River. Photo credit: Newshub.

 

3:45pm: Most of the country is still experiencing temperatures in single digits this afternoon.

3:35pm: Heavy rain has caused flooding to some properties near Palmerston North. One property in Woodville on State Highway 2 is surrounded in muddy water.

A property is flooded south of Woodville on State Highway 2.
A property is flooded south of Woodville on State Highway 2. Photo credit: Newshub.

3:25pm: Turbulent seas and huge waves are washing sand on to Lyall Bay roads in Wellington.

3:15pm: In the Waikato, State Highway 41 from Manunui to Kuratau has reopened. All other state highways on the central plateau remain closed.

3:10pm: Heavy rain is pushing over Wellington, and is currently hitting the CBD and causing even more flooding on the roads.

3:05pm: The New Zealand Transport Agency's traffic camera shows the North Island's Desert Rd is completely snowed over.

Desert Rd was closed this morning.
Desert Rd was closed this morning. Photo credit: New Zealand Transport Agency

2:55pm: Waiouru has been bogged down by a heavy blanket of snow.

2:45pm: State Highway 23 is closed near Hamilton after a fallen tree blocked the road east of Raglan. A detour is in place.

2:30pm: Wellington City Council has issued a stern warning to locals, telling them to secure their trampolines after one hit a vehicle and brought down powerlines in the suburb of Newlands. The power will be out while the lines are repaired.

Civil Defence regional controller Bruce Pepperell said it's not hard for parents to tie down their trampolines. "We live in Wellington. It gets very windy at times – like today. I'm sick of seeing pictures of trampolines today where they've obviously not been secured and so they've taken off like Mary Poppins."

2:25pm: Strong winds are picking up in Auckland, with a gust of 82km/h recorded in Mangere in the last hour.

NIWA have posted footage of a man battling his way through the wind with an umbrella.

2:15pm: Wellington's Waihenga Bridge has closed due to flooding.

2:10pm: The Ngauranga Gorge in Wellington has reopened in both directions.

The New Zealand Transport Agency warns to still take extra care.

2:00pm: The storm that has wreaked havoc across the country is heading towards Auckland. Metservice says the city should brace for a band of rain.

Rain continues to fall down south but Christchurch is warming up, now at 7degC.

1:50pm: Satellite imagery shows the storm sweeping across the country.

1:30pm: Strong wind has destroyed a section of the roof of this Island Bay house in Wellington. 

As it happened: Icy blast sweeps the country
Photo credit: Newshub/ Emma Jolliff

1:15pm: Wellington's Ngauranga Gorge is closed in both directions after the wind caused damage to a sign. 

12:50pm: Snow is falling in Rotorua, both in the central city and in the Mamaku ranges. 

12.40pm: A fleet of truck drivers are awaiting rescue in the Hawke's Bay after being caught out by a heavy snowfall.

Police say the heavy vehicles, reportedly about eight in all, are stuck on the Napier-Taupo Highway, State Highway 5, near Te Pohue.

The road was closed at about 8.30am on Thursday, a police spokeswoman says.

12.00pm: Another trampoline has been tipped over by the wind in New Plymouth. It was strapped to a fence but snapped off in the severe gales. 

As it happened: Icy blast sweeps the country

11.30am: A tree has crashed through the roof of a Seatoun home in high winds in Wellington.

Tenant Claire Taylor says her nine-year-old daughter's bedroom has been destroyed, but luckily the girl was downstairs at the time.

The family has only been living in New Zealand for six months and have been told they cannot stay in the house.

As it happened: Icy blast sweeps the country
Photo credit: Newshub/ Emma Jolliff
As it happened: Icy blast sweeps the country
Photo credit: Newshub/ Emma Jolliff

11am: There are fears that power could be cut in the Rotorua District, as heavy snow causes the power lines to drop.

Truck driver Richard Arnold says bus passengers and truck drivers are stuck at a pub in Waiouru, with the town in the Ruapehu district covered in a blanket of knee deep snow. He says road crew have abandoned clearing the roads. "I haven't seen anything like this in my twelve years of driving," Mr Arnold said.

"The snow's probably up to our knees at the moment and still coming down heavy. I'd say we'll lose power very soon because the power lines are sagging quite badly." Mr Arnold said there are fires going at the pub, and there's a generator available if the power goes out.

10.50am: A trampoline has blown onto the street in the Wellington suburb of Seatoun. 

As it happened: Icy blast sweeps the country
Photo credit: Newshub/ Emma Jolliff
As it happened: Icy blast sweeps the country
Photo credit: Newshub/ Emma Jolliff

10.30am: The America's Cup parade will go ahead in Dunedin.

The weather Gods are holding off for Dunedinites ahead of their chance to celebrate Team New Zealand's historic America's Cup victory.

With no snow or ice in sight, their parade will still go ahead at midday with a helicopter also expected to follow the route and drop confetti on the fans lining the street. It will complete the Auld Mug's nation-wide journey since arriving back in the country last week. 

10am: NZTA has advised people who want to pass through or to the central North Island to avoid unnecessary travel, and to only drive for emergencies or necessary business.

The main routes through the centre of the North Island and State Highway 5 Napier-Taupo are closed because of ice or snow.

NZTA spokesperson Karen Boyt said "We also need people to start thinking about their longer term plans as well and considering delaying them because once the ice thaws out we can see an increase in slips and rockfalls."

The conditions are changing rapidly as the weather system moves up the North Island. "If you do have to travel, check our website before you leave and drive to the conditions," Ms Boyt says.

9:30am: Buses, trucks and cars are stuck in the small town of Waiouru in the Ruapehu Distrcit due to heavy snow in the area.

Truck driver Richard Arnold told Newshub "I'm stuck at Waiouru at the Caltex truck stop with six or seven other truck drivers. And there's about half a metre of snow, and still falling, blowing like a blizzard and there's buses stuck across the road at the petrol station, cops stuck at the petrol station, and it's just a complete whiteout."

"The conditions are getting worse, and it's horrible and cold." Mr Arnold said there are snow ploughers in the area but they can't keep up with the "unreal" amount of snow. He said people are trying to keep warm staying in their vehicles, and buying coffees at the service station.

As it happened: Icy blast sweeps the country
Photo credit: Supplied/ Richard Arnold

9am: Flights at a standstill in the capital as severe gales hit

All Wellington flights are cancelled until at least midday, affecting hundreds of passengers - including Prime Minister Bill English who has had to cancel a trip to the Wairarapa.

Wellington City Council reports there are "scores of calls about trees and branches down on roads, slips and other storm-related damage including reports of roofing iron coming loose on a number of buildings."

Motorists are advised to take care along the south coast in case waves bring debris on the roads.

Residents in Newtown and the southern suburbs are urged not to put out their rubbish and recycling, or to place it in a secure location.

Southerly gales will continue to affect central New Zealand until Friday, with severe gales about the Marlborough Sounds, Wellington, Kapiti and Taranaki.

As it happened: Icy blast sweeps the country

8:30am:

MetService severe weather watches and warnings.

8am:

MetService meteorologist Georgina Griffiths told The AM Show the South Island is on the "improve" today, particularly for lower parts.

Wellington is still in pretty bad shape, with gusts well in excess of 140 km/h and waves on the Cook Strait peaking over 10m.

The rain band sitting over the lower North Island will ease tonight and move up into central areas tomorrow morning with snow still in central areas.

The snow level rises slowly from 200m to 500m in the South Island and snow showers become very isolated in the deep south, taking a little longer to clear in the northern areas and clearing on Friday for the North Island.

Auckland will get some of the wind chill that's affecting most of the North Island and some showers may turn to hail.

7:30am:

The lower North Island will see a lot of rain today, with 120-170mm about the hills in next 24hrs.

7am:

The worst winter storm of the year so far is continuing to sweep the country, putting America's Cup celebrations at risk.

Dunedin's cold snap hasn't deterred organisers pressing ahead with a public parade, the city council saying a final decision on whether the event will proceed will be made at 10am, two hours before the scheduled start time.

Dunedin is the last parade stop for Team NZ, after earlier celebrations in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Sleet, rain and wind couldn't keep the crowds away in Christchurch on Wednesday and helmsman Peter Burling said the turnout was "unreal" given the conditions.

On the same day, Dunedin's hill suburbs had snow and ice and Otago Polytechnic was closed. The forecast for the city on Thursday is for showers with southerlies dying out.

For the country's other main centres the inclement weather is set to continue for now.

It may not be snowing in New Zealand's largest city, but it doesn't avoid the bad weather - Auckland is in for a chance of thundery showers with hail possibly becoming more frequent in the afternoon. 

The capital is expecting heavy falls of rain throughout the day, with severe gale force southerlies, gusting 140 km/h in exposed places until evening.

For Wednesday's parade hosts showers are expected, some possibly heavy. Christchurch could also be hit with possible snow flurries early, with cold southerlies slowly easing in the afternoon. 

Fresh southerly winds strengthening in northern areas in the evening will keep most main centres around the country from reaching double digit temperatures.

NZN / Newshub.