Skip to content

Snow and Record Cold In New Zealand – Al Gore Called to Help

August 16, 2011

Yeh, the Al Gore to help warm it up is a JOKE! But record snow and cold is not.

Polar blast set to ease off

3:24 PM Tuesday Aug 16,
2011

A thick blanket of snow continues to cover much of New Zealand, including Oxford in North Canterbury, where the snow is 300mm deep. Photo / Monese Ball

A thick blanket of snow continues to cover much of New
Zealand, including Oxford in North Canterbury, where the snow is 300mm deep.
Photo / Monese Ball

The bitterly cold polar blast that blanketed much of the South Island in snow
and brought record low temperatures to Auckland is set to ease, forecasters
say.

Metservice said threats of intense snow will lower as a ridge approaches from
the Tasman Sea and moves onto southern New Zealand tomorrow.

Snow showers were still likely in higher areas between Gisborne and
Canterbury but were not expected to reach warning levels by Friday, it said.

Meanwhile, Weatherwatch reported Auckland’s window for snow flakes and
‘graupel’ – or soft hail – was closing as a band of showers moved over the city
this afternoon.

It said intense hail could still affect some parts of the Auckland region and
advised motorists to drive with care.

The polar blast brought snow to downtown Auckland for the first time in 72
years – and created the city’s coldest day on record.

What’s the current weather forecast? Click
here for the latest.

A weather historian says the polar blast has been a ‘once in a life time’
event.

Erick Brenstrom told Newstalk ZB the recent snow falls are similar to the
massive storm of 1939, but temperatures were “a wee bit colder and the sheer
quantity of snow was a lot worse” in the 1930’s event.

“In Auckland, for example, in 1939 you had 5cm of snow lying on top of Mt
Eden, as well as snow falling in the suburb like Ponsonby, Remuera. And it also
snowed at the lighthouse at the very top end of the North Island. It snowed in
Dargaville, Ruapekapeka up in Northland. There was also three hours of snow
Gisborne City – so there were snowball fights there. In Banks Peninsula and
Otago we had snow drifts of 10 metres.”

“That one was worse than the one we’re having now.

Meanwhile heavy disruptions are expected today for schools, businesses and
travellers, to keep across this, please read our latest updates.

Many state highways around New Zealand are closed, including the Desert Road
and Rimutaka Hill road in the North Island and the Lewis Pass and Arthurs Pass
in the South Island.

Police are warning motorists to use extreme caution on SH1 between Levin and
Manakau due to black ice in the area and advised drivers not to use that portion
of SH1 unless absolutely necessary.

Lucky tourists

Two American tourists have had a lucky escape out of a snow-covered Whirinaki
Forest Park in the central North Island.

The pair had spent a night in the Central Whirinaki Hut but efforts to get to
another hut were hampered by the cold conditions.

Two off-duty police officers heading out for an overnight hunting trip
located the pair and were able to call for assistance.

Detective Sergeant John Wilson says without local knowledge it would have
been almost impossible to successfully negotiate the maze of roads.

He says another night in such conditions may have had serious
consequences.

Closed for business

The Ministry of Education said it was up to individual schools to decide
whether to open today after snow and ice closed many schools and early childhood
centres yesterday.

Both Lincoln and Canterbury University announced they would be closed
today.

Airports in Queenstown, Dunedin and Christchurch were closed this morning,
but all have since reopened, albeit with some delays.

Wellington Airport was operating, but its website homepage crashed earlier
this morning under an onrush of travellers and the airport was advising them to
contact their carrier.

MetService head forecaster Peter Kreft told NZPA yesterday the polar blast
was “of the order of a 50 year” event and warned it could last for several more
days.

Some NZ Bus services were cancelled in the capital this morning.

Heavy snow was expected to return to Wellington after midday today.

The New Zealand Blood Service is calling on people in Nelson and North Island
to come in and donate this week if they are eligible, to make up for collections
lost after disruptions yesterday.

The Christchurch and Dunedin Donor Centres were closed yesterday and Westport
and Mosgiel mobile collections were cancelled as a result of bad weather.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority closed access to the city’s
quake-damaged red zone and would reassess the situation this morning.

Power outages

Heavy snow has cut power to 1000 houses amid bitterly cold conditions in
rural Canterbury, Orion confirmed.

Areas including Rakaia, Westmelton, Leeston and Greendale were hit by the
outages overnight.

Orion General Manager Commercial Rob Jamieson said trees and branches falling
on overhead lines were the main cause of cuts.

Crews had been assessing the damage since dawn this morning, he said.

Orion was set to provide another update at 11.30am.

About 750 homes in south Taranaki, Wanganui, Manawatu and Wairarapa also
spent the night without power after high winds and snow caused trees and
branches to tear down overhead lines.

And around 450 homes in Upper Hutt were without power this morning.

Unusual weather for Auckland

Climate scientist Georgina Griffiths of the National Institute of Water and
Atmospheric Research said yesterday was the coldest day ever recorded in
Auckland. The temperature got up to only 8.2C – compared with the previous
lowest high of 8.7C, on July 4, 1996.

The last time snow settled on the ground in the city was 1939. It fell to
ground level at the airport in 1976.

The snow caused waves of excitement in Auckland. Kevin Prohl saw a snow
flurry as he was driving around Western Springs and described it as a fairy
tale. “Looking at oncoming drivers and seeing their smiles as we were fascinated
by this unusual occurrence – it was truly delightful to see, yet all too
short.”

Richard Brown, 53, has lived in Auckland his entire life and had never seen
snow in the city. “It was snow, I’m sure it was.”

There was even debate among weather experts as to what was actually
falling.

MetService weather ambassador Bob McDavitt said most Aucklanders had
witnessed “graupel” – effectively hail with a soft centre.

While many Aucklanders were delighted with the light flurry of snow – the
result of weather MetService described as close to a one-in-50-year-event – the
high winds created havoc. Four people were injured when a tree toppled on to a
house in Pakuranga.

Not so fun for some

The cold snap also wreaked havoc further south including the quake-devastated
eastern suburbs of Christchurch. Power was cut to hundreds of homes, mail
postponed, schools were shut for the day and heavy snow made it too dangerous to
drive on.

In the Wellington region, five main roads were closed and 24 crashes were
reported yesterday.

“We’ve been getting calls from people getting stuck on the road, or cars
sliding down the driveway and getting stuck in the gutter. We’ve got quite a lot
going on,” Inspector Ken Climo of the police said.

Prime Minister John Key commented on “the very uncharacteristic weather”
during his post-Cabinet press conference.

Describing the capital as a “winter wonderland”, Mr Key said it was the first
time he could recall seeing snow fall in downtown Wellington.

“My wife tells me there is snow around our house [in Parnell, Auckland]. It’s
very unusual, and the main message to New Zealanders is just to be cautious and
a little bit careful – make sure they keep an eye out for their family and
friends, and if they are aware of their neighbours living alone, it might be a
good idea just to check up on them and make sure everything is OK.”

Advertisements

From → CLIMATE CHANGE

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: