Icy night ahead in South Island after icy weekend


Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency warns all drivers on alpine and semi-alpine passes in the South Island to beware of ice overnight, tomorrow morning and this week after a particularly icy weekend.

The underlying ice combined with snow in some places caused a number of highways to close on Saturday and overnight to Sunday, says Waka Kotahi System Manager Pete Connors. 

  • More ice is forecast on a number of routes again tonight – SH8 Fairlie to Twizel and SH77 Methven to Rakaia Gorge.
  • Further south in Otago, Ranfurly to Hills Creek and Omakau (SH 85) and SH8 the Lindis Pass to Tarras could also be icy.

Drivers should take special care on bridges and shaded areas where there are trees overhanging and be aware that black ice is very hard to see, says Mr Connors.

Waka Kotahi crews will be gritting known icy patches and applying de-icing compound in places.

“We ask that road users bear in mind our road crews are experienced and have their safety uppermost. Their aim will be to allow traffic safely on these routes as much as they can and to use discretion for residents along the routes.”

More cold temperatures are forecast for this week and people should check with https://www.metservice.com/(external link) for updates if they are travelling in alpine or semi-alpine areas.

Winter driving advice: https://nzta.govt.nz/safety/driving-safely/winter-driving/(external link)

The past weekend

SH73, the Arthur’s Pass route linking Canterbury and the West Coast, was one of a number of routes closed on Saturday due to snow and ice. Further south the Milford Road was also closed and in South Canterbury Burkes and Lindis Passes both closed to all traffic Saturday afternoon with icy conditions and rain turning to ice.

“The intention was to reopen SH73 around 5 pm however, the weather changed again late in the day and icy conditions intensified. Despite applying around 15,000 litres of de-icing compound, the highway was still treacherous in a number of places,” says Mr Connors.

The safety of road users and road crews was the driving factor, particularly as darkness fell.  Ice was more of an issue than snow on these alpine routes on Saturday, says Mr Connors.

Waka Kotahi will review the traffic management of SH73 at the end of the winter season, taking into account feedback from road users and residents. 

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