The weather around the North Island is set to deteriorate further in the coming hours with snow, gales and thunderstorms already lashing the country.
Strong wind gusts and heavy snowfall have impacted key highways, with lanes on Auckland’s Harbour Bridge opening and closing throughout the day and up to 12 centimetres of snow forecast for the Desert Rd.
MetService recorded gusts up to 100km/h on the harbour bridge, while Waka Kotahi NZTA said a full bridge closure “may be required” during this evening’s commute.
Interislander has cancelled four ferry sailings today and tomorrow morning while the Remutaka Hill Rd, Lindis Pass, Crown Range and Milford Rds could see up to 8cm of snow settle.
Four Interislander sailings cancelled
Statement from Interislander:
We regret to advise that due to large and increasing swells and deteriorating conditions today through to Friday the following changes have been made to Interislander sailings:
- The 2.15pm sailing from Picton today will depart half an hour earlier at 1.45pm
- The 3.45pm and 8.35pm Aratere sailings today have been cancelled
- The 8.30pm Kaitaki sailing tonight and the 2.30am sailing Thursday morning have been cancelled.
- Tomorrow, Thursday, the Kaitaki will run as a freight only vessel and the Aratere will be our key passenger ship
Customers impacted by these changes will be contacted directly. We apologise for any inconvenience. Safety is our priority in these situations.
Customers can call us on 0800 802 802 if they want to change their booking or have other questions. Our call centre is open between 8:00AM and 5:00PM, Monday – Sunday. Fare conditions and availability apply.
Harbour Bridge at four lanes in each direction for rush hour
The Auckland Harbour Bridge will be set at four lanes in each direction ahead of this evening's rush hour due to the predicted strong wind gusts.
Thousands of lightning strikes have lit up the skies across New Zealand today as electrical storms swept up the country.
MetService says over the past 24 hours some 1866 strikes have been recorded in the North Island and 2506 bolts in the south.
Lanes reopened on Harbour Bridge
Wind gusts of 100 km/h are currently being recorded on Auckland's harbour bridge, according to MetService.
The forecaster is measuring southwest gales of 67 km/h through the area with gusts blowing some 30km/h higher.
Lanes reduced on Harbour Bridge
Severe wind gusts have struck and the Harbour Bridge is currently operating with two lanes in each direction.
'Take care out there' - Mayor's message to Aucklanders
Auckland mayor Wayne Brown has put out a precautionary warning to Aucklanders ahead of this afternoon’s adverse weather.
He said it was a typical wet winters day for the city but if winds were to intensify then trees could come down.
Brown is reminding people to secure any loose outdoor items.
“My advice is to follow forecasts throughout the day and, if you’re out and about, drive to the conditions and remember, never drive through flooding. Take care out there over the next few days.”
Temporary full closure of Harbour Bridge possible this afternoon
Waka Kotahi is warning Aucklanders the Harbour Bridge could be fully closed for periods this afternoon.
Speed and lane reductions will be in force on the Harbour Bridge between midday and 6pm.
Temporary full closure of the bridge may be required.
Swells of up to 6m possible
Coastal communities in the lower North Island are being encouraged to keep an eye on the weather with high swells forecast.
A Heavy Swell Warning is in place for Wairarapa from 11pm Wednesday, with swells potentially reaching 4 to 4.5 metres.
MetService says the highest risk period is typically at or within 1-2 hours of high tide, which is around 5.45am Thursday.
Meteorologist John Law said when combined with high tide the swell could reach 5.5 to 6 metres.
Those waves wouldn't be so high in nearby Wellington, but Law said people living around the exposed southern coast should still keep an eye on forecasts.
"As we go through the afternoon today for Wednesday, through towards the first half of Thursday, those swells will be picking up to around 4 metres around the coast. How much of that gets into Wellington harbour is a lot less."
He said it'd be similar in Cook Strait with swells between 4 and 5 metres, but said with strong southerly's fuelling the swells it's sure to make for an 'interesting crossing' for anyone catching a ferry.
And Law said it's not just sea travel facing disruption in the lower North, with the possibility of snow on the Remutaka Hill.
He said temperatures are set to plummet tonight so it wouldn't be out of the question to see snow settle on the road.
Avalanche risk on Milford Rd
Southland District Council said Milford Rd at the Homer Tunnel is closed due to an avalanche risk.
It is also said SH94 from Mossburn to Te Anau is currently closed due to snow and ice.
The Crown Range Rd was closed, along with the Milford Rd - where there was a risk of an avalanche near the Homer Tunnel.
MetService-issued strong wind, heavy swell and heavy snow watches and road snowfall warnings are in place across the country and authorities have warned people to tie down loose outdoor items and take care.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency said the Auckland Harbour Bridge will have four lanes operating in each direction during this evening’s commute, warning motorists to drive cautiously, especially those in high-sided vehicles and on motorcycles.
Earlier, the transport agency said the bridge could fully close anytime between midday and 6pm, when a strong wind watch over Auckland was set to lapse.
Mayor Wayne Brown advised people to follow forecasts and drive to the conditions: “Take care out there over the next few days.”
Huge 6-metre waves are expected to pummel the coast from Wairarapa’s Cape Palliser to Mataikona this evening before easing below MetService’s warning criteria by midday Thursday.
MetService has already recorded thousands of lightning strikes around the country with some 1866 strikes in the North Island and 2506 in the South and snow flurries have been recorded in central Dunedin.
Snowfall at Queenstown Airport delayed flights, with crew out shovelling snow.
MetService said snow has fallen as low as 200m above sea level in some parts of the South Island.
Hundreds of homes around the North Island, meanwhile, were left without power with electricity provider Powerco showing properties in the Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Manawatū and Wellington in the dark.
In the city of sails, meanwhile, a Ports of Auckland radio tower came down on Devonport’s Mt Victoria likely due to the wind, a port spokesperson said.
Raphael Franks is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He joined the Herald as a Te Rito cadet in 2022.
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