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Snow closes several South Island roads overnight, chains needed elsewhere, watch for ice this weekend


NZ Transport Agency update on conditions on South Island highways as of Saturday morning 11am

Update on snow and highway situation South Island: 

All state highways in South Island open with restrictions (ie carry chains and be prepared to use them, drive to conditions if roads icy), except SH94 Milford Te Anau. This will be updated at 12pm, see the NZ Transport Agency web(external link).

Lewis Pass Springs Junction roadLewis Pass Springs Junction road with branches brought down by weight of the snow overnight.

Please be aware conditions are changing, check the website or phone 0800 4 HIGHWAYS. Please note the web updates occur about 20 minutes after the road opens, so expect a slight delay. The NZ Transport Agency South Island Facebook page(external link) is also being regularly updated.

The Lewis Pass (State Highway 7), Rahu Saddle (on the West Coast side) and Otira (State Highway 73 to the West Coast) remained closed overnight.

All vehicles were removed or the passengers taken to safety for the night, said Transport Agency Journey Manager Lee Wright. “The police assisted Transport Agency contractors with the operation on the Otira and did a final sweep before leaving the area.

“The Lewis Pass has 400 mm snow and a very heavy snow burden on the trees. It is estimated that some of the ‘snow bombs’ are up to ¾ tonne so no work can be done in these areas until they fall.

“When they fall they are likely to bring down trees and tree branches that will have to be cleared before the road can reopen. The weather is fine and sunny which will help with clearing operations. However, it may also be icy which may delay reopening until mid morning or later.

“The contractors worked on the Rahu Saddle all night clearing trees.”

Further south on State Highway 70, ice is making driving treacherous through the Pusey Gorge, between Geraldine and Fairlie.

Chains are essential on many open routes. “If you see a sign saying “chains essential” that means you have to put them on,” said Ms Wright.

Key highway routes update at 8.45 am Saturday, 8 August. Please be aware conditions are changing, check the website(external link) or phone 0800 4 HIGHWAYS. Please note the web updates occur about 20 minutes after the road opens, so expect a slight delay.

  • SH7 Lewis Pass, Hanmer turnoff to Springs Junction and the Rahu Saddle near Reefton – road closed until further notice – possibly mid-morning on the Rahu Saddle Saturday if sun melts the snow. Midday potentially for the Springs Junction side of the Lewis.
  • SH73 Arthur’s Pass route to the West Coast – remains closed, update Transport Agency website 10 am, snow, chains essential, closed to towing vehicles from Springfield to Otira.
  • SH75 Banks Peninsula, Akaroa via Hilltop – open, winter driving conditions.
  • SH77 Ashburton to Methven/ Mount Hutt – winter driving conditions, have chains ready.
  • SH6 Franz Josef to Fox Glacier – winter driving conditions, be prepared.
  • SH8 Fairlie to Twizel – snow, chains essential, closed to towing vehicles.
  • SH8 Omarama to Tarras – closed currently but should be open after 9 am Saturday.
  • SH79, South Canterbury, the Pusey Gorge, between Geraldine and Fairlie – ice is making driving treacherous.
  • SH80 Mt Cook road – snow, chains are essential, closed to towing vehicles.

For the latest on road information, freephone 0800 4 HIGHWAYS, 0800 44 44 49 or visit the Transport Agency’s website: link) and Facebook page(external link).

For the latest MetService forecasts, check their web site: link)