- Publish Date
- Friday, 9 September 2016, 7:18AM
Hundreds of homes and businesses are without power in the central North Island and snow has closed the Desert Rd as the country wakes to bitterly cold temperatures.
New Zealand is in single digits this morning as the vicious spring storm that has brought snow and destructive gales for the past two days begins to ease.
At 6am Wellington was just 4.7C but coupled with wind chill was expected to be more like -1C. The coolest temperature has been recorded in Queenstown on -1.1C.
Howling winds continue to batter the North Island but MetService said these were expected to ease throughout the day. A wind warning for gale-force winds remained in place for Wellington and the Wairarapa.
Ferry services across Cook Strait have been cancelled for a second day as giant 7m swells make crossing the channel too dangerous.
The Desert Rd was closed this morning from Rangipo to Waiouru with diversions in place around the National Park.
In the South Island just one alpine highway pass had been closed because of snow.
Update: Lewis Pass remains CLOSED until at least 10am. Arthurs & Porters passes both open with restrictions https://t.co/hAwhcShFdG ^LT— NZTA Canterbury/WC (@NZTACWC) September 8, 2016
Road authorities were warning motorists to take care on highways affected by the winter conditions.
HEADS UP: Winter driving conditions are advised on #SH2 Rimutaka Hill. Please take care if you are in a high-sided vehicle or motorbike. ^MF— NZTA Central Nth Is (@NZTACNI) September 8, 2016
In the central North Island about 500 customers in Taupo and Rotorua had their power cut overnight. Wintry conditions have also cut power to around 90 homes and businesses in Canterbury.
But the end of the unseasonal polar blast is in sight. The MetService is forecasting the weather to improve over the next 24 hours.
The East Coast of the North Island, Wellington and Canterbury could expect to see a few showers today, but forecasters said more snow or hail was unlikely.
Fine weather was expected to return on Sunday, although clear skies would mean overnight temperatures would stay low.