Storm batters New Zealand
Sunday 14 Jul 2013 1:04 p.m.
The winter gods are throwing everything they've got at New Zealand, as torrential rain, gale force winds and heavy snow batter the country.
Predicted six-to-seven metre swells in the Cook Strait have forced the Interislander ferry operator to abandon its passenger service this afternoon.
The ferry may still make the trip for freight purposes but the operator is monitoring the weather closely and has not ruled out cancelling the service altogether.
"If it goes according to predictions, we have to be aware that there'll be some cancellations," a KiwiRail spokeswoman said.
"We have to be aware of what those swells are like. If they get over a certain point and it's not safe we won't be able to sail."
Air New Zealand has cancelled flights into and out of the capital until 5pm, when it will review the situation.
Gale force winds are sweeping across Wellington, with "damaging gusts" of up to 130km/h expected to hit the capital and Marlborough, MetService says.
A severe weather warning for heavy rain is in place for Hawke's Bay, with 70mm to 90mm of rain expected today.
"Streams and rivers may rise rapidly and surface flooding and slips are possible," MetService said.
North Canterbury and the Kaikoura Ranges will get up to 25cm of snow, falling to about 400m, with the heaviest falls expected today.
Snow falls will gradually ease overnight.
Police say road conditions in Southland and Central Otago are extreme, with reports of black ice on main highways.
At least 10 cars have slid off roads after hitting ice in the region, police said.
State Highway 79 between Geraldine and Fairlie is closed due to snow, while State Highway 1 between Clinton and Gore remains shut following a washout.
The New Zealand Transport Authority is urging caution on State Highway 35 between Anaura Bay and Okitu, with flooding in the area.
Chains are required for most mountain passes, and a number of cautions are in place for roads covered in ice and snow.
Skiers and mountaineers are being warned not to venture backcountry without avalanche skills, with avalanche cautions in place for many mountain regions.
Meanwhile, trains recommenced between Petone and Wellington today after damage caused by stormy weather on Wednesday closed the track for two days.
State Highway 53 into Martinborough has also been reopened after it closed yesterday due to flooding.