Spring blizzards in New Zealand

The Southern Hemisphere is still facing bitterly cold weather.

Southland, New Zealand

The 1st of September is usually designated as the start of spring in New Zealand. Lambing is in full swing but six days of blizzards are being called the worst spring storm in living memory. Cars, lambs, and buildings have all fallen victim to the unusually heavy, wet snow that has fallen in Southland. Seven trampers were rescued by helicopterafter being caught in the snowstorm that has swept South Island national parks. A roof of a stadium collapsed in Southland under the weight of wet snow. A sixth day of snow, rain, wind, hail and sleet was forecast for the already battered coastal belt from Colac Bay in Southland, parts of Central Southland, the Catlins, Owaka and Clinton. Three snowfalls of up to 15cm since Saturday had left ground conditions so wet and muddy that newborn lambs had nowhere dry to go.

A ewe shows concern for her lamb

BARRY HARCOURT/The Southland Times

Exactly how many lambs have been killed will not be known until tailing but at an expected average price of $80 for each lamb, the cost to farmers could be measured in millions of dollars. In recent days, the Owaka Lions Club has collected up to 400 dead lambs a day from the 19km Owaka Valley Rd, for which farmers receive 50c each.

Federated Farmers adverse events spokesman David Rose said he estimated half the farms in Southland were affected. “The spring storm of 2010 is, frankly, the worst in a generation, with farmers going back over 50 years for anything this bad.”

MetService warned that temperatures would plunge in the Southland tonight as a cold front crosses the region. It said significant snowfalls were expected overnight, mainly above 200m, where 10-15cm is possible, especially in the Catlins and hilly areas exposed to strong southwesterlies. Localised blizzards and snow drifts are possible. The Fire Service in Invercargill said it had been flat out working three pumps to drain properties around the city swamped by melting snow.

The North Island has also received its share of the snow fall.

The Rimutaka Hill Road was closed following 2-6cm of snow accumulating on the hill above 400m from 3am to 7am this morning. It has since reopened with cars only allowed across in escorted convoys, one way at a time. The Manawatu Gorge road has reopened following a slip which closed it yesterday. Snow is also falling on the Central Plateau this morning, with 4-12cm accumulating on the Desert Road between 3am and 12am this morning. Another 3-6cm are expected over the next couple of hours. Drivers are warned the road may close.

Sources: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10675265

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10675510

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