Stormy weather raises avalanche risk in South Island

Stormy weather raises avalanche risk in South Island
Photo credit: File

The Mountain Safety Council (MSC) is urging people heading outdoors in the South Island this weekend to check the avalanche forecast.

A slow-moving front is making its way up the country from the western South Island, bringing heavy rain, strong northwest winds and heavy snowfall.

Fiordland, Wanaka, Aoraki/ Mount Cook, and Queenstown are deemed to be at high risk of avalanche, while Ohau is listed as at considerable risk.

Mountain Safety Council spokesperson Nick Kingstone says it's not just skiers who should be wary of the South Island backcountry, but climbers and hunters too.

"The ratings are high for four of the twelve regions and there's potentially another two that are going to up to high as well. These are significant avalanches that could run to the valley floor."

Metservice meteorologist Lisa Murray said: "Primary concerns for the South Island is prolonged heavy rain which will fall as snow about the upper elevations at first but will lower as we head into Sunday and Monday, so large accumulations of fresh snow can be expected."

The heaviest snowfall will be in upper areas of the ranges above the freezing level, where one to metres of snow or more can be expected at higher elevations.

The heavy snowfall comes on top of rain and old snow, which combined with strong winds is creating the avalanche risk.

Ms Murray said the North Island could expect "decent winds" in the eastern areas.

In Wellington, strong gusting northerlies are expected on Saturday with rain in the evening.

Metservice has issued severe weather warnings for strong northwestlies and heavy rain for parts of the South Island and lower North island, and more areas could be added throughout the weekend.

The avalanche forecast can be checked at avalanche.co.nz.

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