Heavy snow watches have been extended and road snowfall warnings issued across the South Island, as New Zealand braces for an "intense cold outbreak" that's expected to hit from this evening.
The cold "spreads northwards over the country from Tuesday evening to Thursday, bringing unseasonably low snow to the South Island and the lower North Island," MetService's forecast said. "This event has the potential to impact transport, livestock and crops."
NIWA said yesterday that "from the belly of the polar region, this surge of cold air will, for a couple of days, make it feel like mid-winter".
Heavy snow watches are in place for:
- Marlborough south of the Clarence River, the Canterbury High Country and foothills, also North Otago, Central Otago from Alexandra northwards, and the Lakes District from Queenstown northwards, from 10pm tonight to 8am tomorrow.
- The Canterbury coast and Plains, including Christchurch and Banks Peninsula, from 1am tomorrow to 3pm Thursday.
- Southland, Stewart Island, Clutha, Dunedin, Central Otago south of Alexandra, the Lakes District south of Queenstown, and Fiordland from Te Anau southwards, from 7pm tonight to 9am Thursday.
"Brief bursts of heavy snow" are possible or expected in those areas, with MetService advising people stay up-to-date with the latest forecast "as further areas are likely to be added, and in case any Watches are upgraded to Warnings".
Road snowfall warnings are in place for Arthur's Pass (SH73) from 2am to 6am tomorrow, Porters Pass (SH73) from 3am to 7am tomorrow, Lindis Pass (SH8) from 9pm tonight to 3am tomorrow, Crown Range Road from 8pm tonight to 2am tomorrow, and Milford Road (SH94) from 6pm to 10pm tonight.
Looking ahead, MetService tweeted that "spring volatility is the name of the weather game for October".
"The month starts with an unseasonable cold snap & low snow ... with a roller coaster of weather patterns after that."