Heavy snow blankets Southland

  • 18/09/2010

By Hamish Clark

A group of young tennis players had a close call when heavy snow caved in the roof of Stadium Southland today, causing millions of dollars of damage.

The storm also stranded locals, closed roads and shut Invercargill Airport before moving up the country.

Snow dumped down on the roof was too much for the metal structure, dropping it to the ground and tearing open the walls.

"It's a sad day for Invercargill," says stadium manager Nigel Skelt. "The building is an iconic one and we have lost it."

The multi-purpose stadium is just 10 years old and the home of the Southern Sting netball team, and now seems beyond repair.

Stadium management say it was lucky no one inside was killed.

"We had a group of young tennis players playing in the building who had just finished, and were fortunate to be moving out of the foyer area," says Mr Skelt.

"So the staff got them out very quickly, and the one saving grace was that there was no one injured."

Sixteen centimetres of snow fell. The weight brought down a tall tree in Queen's Gardens and destroyed a tin shed, the snow just too much for it to stay up.

"It is quite bad for Invercargill," says forecaster Andy Fraser. "It is not out of the bounds of what we have had in the past, it is probably once every 10-15 years we get a decent dump like this."

The last time was 15 years ago.

Motorists unfamiliar with the driving conditions diced with the slippery roads.

"There have been a lot of accidents on the roads in Southland from cars hitting kerbs in Invercargill city right through to some more serious crashes on the rural and State Highway 1 roads," says Snr Sgt Maggie Windle.

Police also had to deal with troublemakers who attacked people who drove through their snow wall blocking the road.

In Queenstown, snow overnight fell to low levels and on the surrounding hills.

"It's pretty bad," says John Winder, Wanaka driver. "Coming up is alright, going down there without any chains on, suicide."

The westerly is freezing cold. It comes through in waves and bringing with it waves of snow. The snow is expected to continue in Southland for a few more days, making it a messy clean up at the stadium that faces being bowled over and totally rebuilt .

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source: newshub archive