STOP PRESS: SH7, the alternate route between Picton and Christchurch, is remaining closed overnight for safety reasons.
Tresca Forrester, Transport Agency Journey Manager, says that trees are buckling under the weight of snow and creating a danger at the edges of the highway. These need to be cleared in daylight conditions.
The Transport Agency’s West Coast and North Canterbury crews are working through the night but it is unlikely at this stage that the Lewis Pass will reopen. Most of the snow is on the West Coast side of the pass.
Drivers need to stop at the highway checkpoints for their own safety, Ms Forrester says. “We don’t close a major highway like this lightly so please be aware the closure is to protect road users.”
The Lewis Pass, State Highway 7, on the new alternate route between Picton and Christchurch, closed after 1.30 pm today as more snow is falling making driving unsafe.
NZ Transport Agency crews cleared the road of snow earlier today reopening after 10.30 am after an early morning closure. Four trucks, two on each side of the pass, jack-knifed in deep snow after 4 am. These were cleared in daylight, with a tow truck stationed on the Alternate Route this winter and road crews available, and the road reopened mid morning.
“More snow is forecast hence the decision to close the highway again,” says Transport Agency Journey Manager Tresca Forester. “The snow is coming in heavy waves so it clears and then comes in again at almost white-out conditions.”
Trucks and vehicles were parked up in towns like Murchison and Culverden during the earlier closure (see photo below) and will have to delay again on either side of the Pass between the Hanmer Springs turnoff and Springs Junction.
Drivers who are able to postpone their journey through the Lewis Pass today are advised to do so. The web site and the status of the road will be updated by 4 pm today.