Wild weather: Large waves bashing Wellingtons coastline heaviest tonight, snow closing roads

Wellingtonians are being warned to brace for eight-metre-high swells this evening and snow has closed parts of State Highway 1 and 2, as the wild weather moves across the North Island.

A number of roads across the country are closed following a large dumping of snow this morning, including Desert Rd. A detour is available via State Highway Four. Drivers are urged to travel with “extreme caution” due to ice and to delay travel where possible.

A strong wind watch is in place for much of the South Island, including Dunedin, Christchurch and North Otago.

Flights have been cancelled across Invercargill, Queenstown, Christchurch and Wellington.

Huge swells already lashing Greater Wellington’s coastline are expected to be at their heaviest about 9pm tonight.

Exposed coastlines are likely to see overtopping waves causing damage to property, deposition of debris, driftwood, sand and gravel, making access difficult or dangerous and possible road closures, Metservice warns.

An Antarctic blast has descended on much of the country, bringing bitterly cold temperatures, heavy rain, hail and even snow in the Bay of Plenty.

Snow flurries are falling in Mamaku and power is out to hundreds of customers in the Mamaku and Hamurana area.

Mamaku School principal Garry Veysi said there was a snow flurry on the school grounds at around 11.30am.

Excited students were released from class to play in the snow, he said.

Twelve Air New Zealand flights in the South Island have been cancelled today and 25 at Wellington Airport alone. Most remaining flights at the capital airport are running to schedule with minor delays, mostly to flight arrivals.

Snow has closed State Highway 2 between Gisborne and Wairoa. No detour is available and drivers are urged to delay travel.

Road snowfall warnings are in place for Napier-Taupo Rd, Desert Rd and Remutaka Hill Rd. A heavy snow watch is in place for Taihape, the Tararua Range, Canterbury and Marlborough.

Meanwhile, wind is toppling trees in Auckland.

The country’s coastline is at risk of enormous and dangerous swells, possible flooding and erosion, MetService said.

The greatest impact is likely to be on Wellington, with a very present threat to property.

Large waves are expected in the inner harbour area, Petone and Eastbourne, but the south coast is set to be hit the hardest.

Snow in the capital has already reached sea level this afternoon, but is expected to affect Remutaka Hill, State Highway 2, through to this evening. The road currently remains open with contractors working around the clock to clear ice.

Up to 8cm of snow may settle near the summit of State Highway 2.

People heading home tonight should keep an eye on public transport updates, with a number of ferries, buses and flights being cancelled or delayed.

Temperatures are mostly in the mid-single digits for much of New Zealand but it will feel much colder due to the wind-chill effect, MetService said.

Snow flurries and icy showers are now peppering suburbs from Karori through to Broadmeadows, as the bitterly cold polar blast lashes the bottom half of the North Island.

An ice-laced wind straight off the southern continent is sending temperatures in the capital plunging below zero.

Wellingtonians are being urged to prepare for possible evacuations and to leave their home at short notice.


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Civil defence reiterated a warning to stay out of the water after two kayakers feared missing in Wellington harbour were found 22km away after a search was mounted in mountainous seas off Wellington’s south coast.

An extensive hunt on sea, land and air was earlier launched for the two men who had been seen in trouble off Wellington’s coast at Seatoun.

The pair were found safe in Petone.

The southerly swell is expected to reach 8m on Tuesday evening, with the highest risk period coinciding with high tide at 8.24am and 8.54pm.

By Wednesday night the swell is likely to ease to around 4m.

MetService meteorologist Angus Hines warned today’s waves could be damaging to low-lying properties and roads. People in the area are urged to stay out of the water and be prepared to leave their properties if they are at risk.

The Wellington Region Emergency Management Office said the impact of today’s morning high tide could be similar to what was experienced in Ōwhiro Bay in April last year when 6m waves battered roads and flooded properties.

The agency said people who lived in homes that had been impacted by past swells and storm events should be prepared for these potential impacts again.

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