Weather live updates: Antarctic blast brings severe gales, heavy snow to New Zealand

New Zealand has been battered by severe weather as an Antarctic blast sweeps the country.

The huge storm, also known as a "bomb cyclone", has caused heavy rain, gale-force winds and cold temperatures over the weekend.

Here's what you need to know:

  • WeatherWatch's Phillip Duncan says temperatures are set to plummet on Monday and Tuesday
  • There were delays for motorists across the Auckland Harbour Bridge during the morning
  • Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is warning more lanes may close if winds exceed 80 km/h. A strong wind warning is in place
  • Flights in and out of Queenstown Airport have been cancelled due to snowfall, Invercargill Airport's morning flights have also been affected
  • Heavy snow is falling in Southland, leading to some road closures
  • A black ice advisory has been issued for State Highway 8 and State Highway 20 in the Mackenzie Country

These live updated have finished.

5:45pm - Wild winds have caused a truck to topple to its side in Wellington.

The incident occurred at about 3:05pm on State Highway 1 between Tyers Rd and the Newlands on-ramp on Monday.

NZTA said while the road and truck has been cleared, drivers should still expect "significant delays".

4:30pm - The Dunedin City Council is reminding locals a heavy snow and strong wind watch has been issued for Dunedin. A road snowfall warning remains in place for the Dunedin to Waitati Highway.

"We're monitoring road conditions and contractors are on standby in case we need to grit or remove snow," it said on Twitter.

"If you are driving, please take care as conditions may be treacherous at times."

3:55pm - NZTA has issued a wind warning for motorcyclists and high-sided vehicles travelling on the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

"Winds have been gusting up to 75km/h today, and with high winds forecast to continue until late tomorrow afternoon we are strongly advising motorcycles and high-sided vehicles to use the Western Ring Route as a safer alternative," NZTA senior journey manager Neil Walker says.

He says ongoing wind gusts are still a concern and NZTA is continually assessing whether lanes on the bridge will close to look after the safety of drivers.

"Closures may happen at very short notice. Waka Kotahi [NZTA] acknowledges the lane closures will cause disruption and inconvenience, however safety is our top priority and the lanes closures will be lifted as soon as it is safe to do so," Walker says.

He adds lanes on the bridge will close if wind gusts reach a threshold of 80km/h or over.

3:30pm - Flights have resumed at Queenstown Airport, its Twitter account says, with two flights having landed since 3pm.

Fifteen departing flights and 12 arrival flights were cancelled on Monday, and three arrival flights were diverted to other airports.

3:10pm - NZTA is advising motorists to expect snow, wind and ice on the Desert Rd overnight and into Tuesday.

MetService is forecasting a front to bring snow to the summit of the road, NZTA Waikato system manager Cara Lauder says, and snow is expected to accumulate until 6pm on Tuesday.

"With additional traffic on the roads due to the school holidays, motorists are asked to take care. We encourage drivers to be prepared for winter driving conditions, despite the move to spring earlier this month," she says.

"Road closures are likely. Plan ahead, allow extra time for your journeys and drive to the road and weather conditions. Maintain a greater following distance between your vehicle and the one in front, slow down and be prepared for unexpected hazards."

Other state highways in the Central Plateau may also be affected, she adds.

"Make sure you have a safe spare tyre, your lights, brakes and windscreen wipers are all working, and you have a clean windscreen inside and out. Ensure your cell phone is well charged and carry a car phone charger or power bank. Blankets, snacks and bottles of water are also a good idea, in case of an emergency or breakdown."

2:55pm - Milford Rd/State Highway 94 will remain closed overnight, NZTA says. The road has been closed since 4pm on Saturday.

2:35pm - Mackenzie Country Weather NZ has issued a black ice advisory for State Highway 8 and State Highway 20 for Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

"Do expect a very cold night ahead, with temperatures as low as -5C to -8C, which means black ice is in the forecast on SH8 Twizel to Fairlie and SH80 Pukaki to Mount Cook," it said on Facebook.

"Mackenzie Country Weather NZ team advise you all to take care if you're out on the roads late tonight and in the morning for the next two mornings especially."

2:25pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is currently driving to Dunedin to hopefully catch a flight after her scheduled departure out of Invercargill was cancelled.

Ardern was in the deep south on the campaign trail, having arrived there on Sunday evening.

2:15pm - MetService says Tuesday will be the coldest day for the South Island, but it will start to warm in the far south by early Wednesday.

1:35pm - Metservice has issued new severe weather forecasts through Tuesday.

There is now also a Strong Wind Watch for Buller, Nelson west of Motueka, and Dunedin and Clutha.

There is also a Strong Wind Warning for Canterbury High Country, a Strong Wind Watch for  Westland and Marlborough.

Find the other Metservice watches below.

12:50pm - Metservice says snow has fallen on the beaches in Southland and Stewart Island for the first time this year.

Extensive now and strong winds are set to continue on Wednesday, but the weather is expected to get better later in the week.

"The weather brightens significantly on Wednesday; plan outdoor school-holiday activities for the second half of the week," MetService meteorologist Angus Hines said.

12:30pm - Snow has eased in Queenstown and the airport's runway has been cleared.

12pm - Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is urging Kiwis in South Island areas affected by snowfall to stay off the roads unless they are prepared.

"Conditions are changing very quickly," said southland maintenance contract manager Justin Reid.

"Please check our traffic maps before you head out and be well prepared for cold conditions and slippery roads with poor visibility. Some routes are currently closed or have just reopened mid-morning, but snow is continuing."

Reid said they are aware some cars have slid off the road in Otago and Southland.

Currently, all central Otago state highways are open, and Lewis Pass, SH7, linking Canterbury to Nelson and the West Coast, has reopened.

SH6 between Franz Josef and Fox Glacier are closed due to snow and to remove a truck.

Queenstown on Monday morning.
Queenstown on Monday morning. Photo credit: Connor Miller
Crown Range, Otago.
Crown Range, Otago. Photo credit: Che Takitimu

11:20am- Flights at Invercargill Airport on Monday morning and early afternoon have been cancelled. 

Dunedin Airport doesn't appear to be affected by the weather with flights running to schedule. Wellington Airport's morning flights to and from Queenstown have been delayed or cancelled.

Queenstown's runway is currently being cleared after heavy snowfall.

11:10am - Two divers are lucky to be live after attempting to dive during extremely windy weather on Sunday.

A party of three divers kayaked out off the coast north of Tatapouri just north of Gisborne around 9am.

They had tied their kayaks together and anchored them but the strong winds and large swells caused the anchor to drag and the trio drifted further from the shore.

One of the divers was able to get back to shore and raise the alarm, prompting an extensive search and rescue operation including Police, Coastguard and the Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand.

One diver was located 500 metres offshore, and the other was found 8 miles offshore.

Neither required medical treatment but were cold and shaken. 

Sergeant Greg Lexmond said they were lucky to be alive.

"This was a fantastic outcome for the family, they were lucky to have been found," he said.

"It is a good reminder however not to dive in bad conditions.

"We talk about driving to the conditions, you also need to dive to the conditions."

10:40 - Heavy snowfall was captured by Melanie Wilson in Centre Hill Station, Southland on Monday.

Weather live updates: Antarctic blast brings severe gales, heavy snow to New Zealand
Photo credit: Melanie Wilson
Weather live updates: Antarctic blast brings severe gales, heavy snow to New Zealand
Photo credit: Melanie Wilson

10:20 - Many flights into Queenstown have been diverted or cancelled amid severe weather.

Their arrival board shows three flights from Auckland and Wellington have been diverted while the 11 flights until 2:20pm have all been cancelled.

Snow falling in Wanaka on Monday morning.
Snow falling in Wanaka on Monday morning. Photo credit: Daniel Hines

9:50am - Metservice currently has 21 weather warnings/watches in place, with most in the South Island. 

Here's where they are:

North Island

  • Desert Road - Road Snowfall Warning
  • Hawke's Bay North - Strong Wind Warning
  • Hawke's Bay South - Strong Wind Warning
  • Wellington and Wairarapa -Strong Wind Warning

Upper South Island

  • Lewis Pass (SH7) - Road Snowfall Warning
  • Nelson - Heavy Snow Watch
  • Marlborough- Strong Wind Watch

Central South Island

  • Arthur's Pass (SH73) - Road Snowfall Warning
  • Haast Pass (SH6) - Road Snowfall Warning
  • Lewis Pass (SH7) - Road Snowfall Warning
  • Lindis Pass (SH8) - Road Snowfall Warning
  • Nelson - Heavy Snow Watch
  • Christchurch, Canterbury Plains, Canterbury High Country - Strong Wind Watch

Lower South Island

  • Crown Range Road - Road Snowfall Warning
  • Dunedin to Waitati Highway (SH1)- Road Snowfall Warning
  • Haast Pass (SH6) - Road Snowfall Warning
  • Lindis Pass (SH8) - Road Snowfall Warning
  • Milford Road (SH94)  - Road Snowfall Warning
  • Fiordland - Heavy Snow Warning
  • Southland south of Riversdale and Stewart Island - Heavy Snow Warning
  • Dunedin, Clutha and Central Otago-  Heavy Snow Watch

9:10am - NIWA meteorologist Ben Noll has revealed New Zealand is currently experiencing a "bomb cyclone".

"They happen about 26 times per year in the Southern Hemisphere," he told The AM Show on Monday. 

"Usually they are buried deep in the Southern Ocean but this one of touching southern parts of New Zealand, especially Southland and Otago, over the next 48 hours."

He said Invercargill and the Catlins will likely experience some "very adverse weather" on Monday, and in the Southern Alps, wind chill temperatures could approach -20 degrees over the next 24 hours.

He said Wellington is going to experience band of intense wind and rain between 2 - 4pm.

Auckland will likely see more showers on Tuesday, but then "the tap is going to shut off", Noll said.

He urged Aucklanders to continue to conserve water as the city's water levels remain low coming into summer.

Watercare's Monday drought update said the dams are currently 67.55 percent full. However they are normally at 90.2 percent at this time of year.

8:45am - New Zealand's air pressure on Monday morning was more powerful than the air pressure from Hurricane Laura.

Hurricane Laura, a category 4 Atlantic hurricane, ripped through the United States in August killing at least 14.

WeatherWatch said Monday had an estimated central air pressure of 933hPa, compared the Hurricane Laura's 937hPa.

Head forecaster Philip Duncan said the air pressure will remain very low for a few more days. 

"The storm is peaking right now across Monday but it lies several hundred kilometres south-east of New Zealand over the Southern Ocean. It's this position that allows it to dredge up the Antarctic blast for the South Island in particular."

Queenstown on Monday morning.
Queenstown on Monday morning. Photo credit: Newshub

8:05am - WeatherWatch says snow flurries are forecast to sea level in Southland, Otago and Fiordland over the next 48 hours. They also expect snow in the central North Island and Desert Road.

Weather live updates: Antarctic blast brings severe gales, heavy snow to New Zealand
Photo credit: WeatherWatch

7:30am: Lanes may close on the Auckland Harbour Bridge on Monday morning due to high winds.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has issued a strong wind warning for the bridge, where there are already delays.

"Closures may happen at very short notice. Waka Kotahi acknowledges the lane closures will cause disruption and inconvenience this morning, however safety is our top priority and the lanes closures will be lifted as soon as it is safe to do so," senior journey manager Neil Walker said.

Motorists are being urged to take extra care on their Monday morning commute.

"Please obey the speed signs. Take extra care, especially if you are in a high-sided vehicle or riding a motorcycle," Walker said.

Walker said southbound traffic is building early to reduced lanes, with traffic backed up to Northcote Road by 6:45am.

Some lanes have been closed after two trucks were toppled by gale force winds, damaging the bridge. A central strut now needs replacing, a process that could take multiple weeks, according to the NZTA.

The bridge is currently operating at 75 percent capacity.

7:20am - New Zealand has experienced a weekend of wild weather as heavy rain, gale-force winds and a powerful arctic blast battered the country.

But Phillip Duncan from WeatherWatch told Magic Talk the weather is expected to get even colder on Monday and Tuesday.

"The latest data does suggest the next 24 to 48 hours are going to be very cold for many parts of the country, particularly the south," he said.

He said the storm has now moved away from New Zealand to the Southern Ocean but it's "growing fast".

Duncan said now it's going to "dredge up" antarctic airflow so New Zealand's weather is going to get colder.

"We are expecting even colder weather coming into Tuesday but today is going to be cold in Southland and Otago, Fiordland, the West Coast, through the Canterbury Plains and the mountains as well.

"Tuesday's the coldest day of all, right across the country. We'll see that temperature drop, even into Wednesday in some northern and eastern areas in Hawke's Bay and Gisborne."

He said the cold weather is going to be particularly hard for farmers who are currently in lambing season.

"Some times you just can't get around mother nature."