Weather: Snow closing roads in South Island as wintry blast sweeps through

Snow is piling up on roads throughout the South Island as a wintry blast sweeps through the country.

There are a number of road snowfall and heavy snow warnings across New Zealand. These are mainly for the South Island, although the Desert Road in the central North Island is expected to get snow on Wednesday.

Snow is expected on Lewis Pass, Arthur's Pass, Porters Pass, Lindis Pass, Crown Range Road, Milford Road, and the Dunedin to Waitati Highway.

There are also several orange strong wind warnings across much of the South Island and the lower North Island.

Waka Kotahi said snow is affecting people's journeys in a few places around the central and southern South Island currently.

"Check if you have chains before setting off and that you know how to put them on. Be prepared for a slower-than-usual journey if high winds and snow are ahead of you," Waka Kotahi said.

Chains were required for the Lindis Pass from Omarama to Tarras earlier on Tuesday, although drivers are now urged instead to take care.

Lindis Pass on Tuesday afternoon.
Lindis Pass on Tuesday afternoon. Photo credit: Waka Kotahi

Downer and Fulton Hogan crews are working each end of the Lindis Pass with graders and grit trucks on Tuesday afternoon.

"If you can avoid travelling through this area today, please take a different route as the situation may worsen in a very short time," said Robert Choveaux, Waka Kotahi system manager for Otago and Southland.

Part of the Crown Range Road, which links Queenstown and Wānaka, between Eastbourne Road after Arrow Junction and Cardrona village also requires chains. 

The road into Milford Sound has shut at the Hollyford Rd and Donne River.

Waka Kotahi said that strong winds and snow continue around the tunnel area and the avalanche risk remains elevated.

The road is likely to reopen from late Wednesday morning after helicopter avalanche control checks the area and the road's cleared of snow. 

Waka Kotahi said snow is expected down to 400 metres overnight in South Canterbury and around the area by the evening. As well as affecting the Lindis Pass from Omarama to Tarras, snow may also affect State Highway 80 into Aoraki Mount Cook and State Highway 79 from Rangitata to Fairlie.

Earlier on Tuesday, some places recorded wind gusts of over 100km/h. The Mt Hutt Summit saw a wind gust of 161km/h. This was followed by Cape Turnagain, with wind getting up to 128km/h. Puysegur Point at the very bottom of New Zealand in Fiordland saw a wind gust of 126km/h, while Mid Dome in Southland recorded a 115km/h wind gust.