Power has been restored to all parts of the South Canterbury high country following a snowstorm which closed roads and schools as it covered the Mackenzie and Waitaki basins on Thursday evening.
Charlie Hobbs, owner of Southern Alps Guiding in the village of Mt Cook, says he is very happy that the power has returned.
“Everyone is going to have a hot night,” Hobbs said.
“It is still quite cold here. It is getting colder and there is still a lot of snow around.
“Fortunately, the companies had backup generators to run them. I hope everyone has chimneys in the village.”
Alpine Energy said 113 customers were affected by the power outage which spread to Balmoral, Braemar, Ferintosh, Glentanner, Godley Peaks, Haldon, Holbrook, Irishman’s Creek, Lilybank, Mt Cook, Mt Gerald, Mt Hay, Mt John, Rollesby, Sawdon, Simons Pass, Stoney Creek, Tasman Downs and Tekapo in South Canterbury.
Hobbs had previously said the driving conditions weren’t good and he wouldn’t recommend it hoping there were no tourists on the road.
“There is a lot of snow, there is at least 30 cm here. It is still snowing, not much but enough to keep us busy. It’s a very pretty sight, lots of snow in the trees,” Hobbs said Friday morning.
“You can even call it a winter wonderland,” he said.
Hobbs said he shoveled snow to clean the doors.
Transport Agency Waka Kotahi NZ urged caution on Mt Cook Rd (SH80) while adding SH8 through the open region, but chains were essential.
However, MetService issued a road snowfall warning for the Lindis Pass section of SH8 from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday.
“A period of snow is expected on Saturday,” MetService said.
“Expect 3-6cm of snow to accumulate on the road above 800 metres, with lesser amounts at 600 metres.”
Sharlene McKinlay, a resident of Mt Cook Village, had “snow insomnia” on Thursday, only sleeping around two hours despite snow overnight.
Principal of the village school, Sandra Rolls, said they had decided to close due to road safety and was in communication with the council chairman to make the decision.
“Although we would have made the decision any day of the term, the children can start the holidays earlier.”
Rolls, who lives in Twizel, said the snow was about the same height as the June dump.
“But there is some rain added to the snow, so we will see how the snow settles, but it is still snowing. We’ll see,” she said Friday morning.
In Takapō/Tekapo, photographer George Empson said the weather began to clear up mid-morning after about 5cm of snow fell.
”[It’s] really wet and muddy stuff,” Empson said.
The snowfall had followed an orange level warning for the Canterbury High Country region south of the Rangitata River from MetService Thursday from 2 a.m. to 11 a.m. Friday.
MetService predicts the greatest snow accumulations above about 700 m, particularly around the Mackenzie Basin.
Of the South Canterbury townships, Mt Cook Village is 700m above sea level, Twizel 470m and Takapō/Tekapo 700m.
MetService meteorologist Angus Hines said the snow level is expected to increase and clear from lower areas on Friday.
However, Hines said more snow is expected on Saturday due to a shift in the southerly wind.
After the change to the south on Saturday, Hines said Sunday was shaping up to be calm and dry for South Canterbury.
“There will be some rain in the high country, but it will remain dry in the lower parts of south Canterbury.”
Hines said Monday’s weather will start off on a good footing, but warns of heavy rain on Tuesday from the North Island.
“He will leave on Wednesday.”
Schools in Omarama and Twizel also closed on Friday and Mackenzie College in Fairlie is open.
Mt Dobson Skifield has been closed ‘due to blizzard-like conditions’.