Polar blast: Snowfall after Wellington hammered by freak hail storm, kayaker reported missing

Snow is starting to fall on the hills surrounding Wellington after an “intense” hail stormhammered areas of the capital in the early hours.

Heavy surf is also hitting the south coast.

The New Zealand Transport Agency is warning motorists that snow is now starting to fall on the Remutaka Hill and likely to continue for the rest of the day.

The icy hail blast came as the vanguard of a polar blast sweeping up the country from the south.

With snow blanketing much of the south, leaving numerous highways closed and even falling to sea level in Christchurch overnight, attention is turning to the north, which is starting to feel the brunt of the polar air.

Twenty flights have been cancelled at Wellington Airport this morning, with an airport spokesman saying that they are regularly inspecting their runway and seawalls as heavy swell batters the coast.

Stuff is reporting asearch is under way for apair of kayakers off Wellington’s south coast.

It said police were alerted to a kayaker, who was possibly in distress, off Marine Parade in Seatoun just before 8am.

Stuff said police were at the scene and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter was getting ready to join the hunt. A second kayaker was reported to be in the water.

Brooklyn Resident Fraser Smith had come down to Owhiro Bay to see the big swells on Wellington’s South Coast, and said it had been getting bigger as he had driven down the coast.

“The swells are definitely picking up especially with the high tide about now, but these swells seem to be getting closer to the foreshore,” he said.

“I think road evacuations maybe road closures might be later on.”

The polar blast brought snow to sea level in parts of the south yesterday, as well as huge seas and gales laced with a bitterly cold -20C windchill.

An active cold front and south-to-southwesterly winds will track north across the remainder of the country, with numerous weather warnings in force.

Heavy snow was possible in Taihape, around the Tararua Range and Banks Peninsula today.

A road snowfall warning is in place for the Napier-Taupō Rd (until midday Tuesday), Desert Rd (until 5pm Tuesday) and Remutaka Hill Rd (until 4pm Tuesday) in the North Island.

Residents in Wellington shared photos of the hail, saying they had been “pummelled” by the sudden downpour.

“The #hail was the size of small marbles. I’ve never seen anything like it in the time I’ve been here,” wrote Khandallah resident Brad Markham.

Get out the woollies in Wellington today, as snow is forecasted to 300m with the chilly high of 8C and low of 6C while strong southwesterly and gale winds gusting to 90km/h are expected.

In Auckland, a high of 13C and low of 4C is on the cards, with frequent showers in the morning, possibly turning heavy before clearing to fine weather in the afternoon.

The rain clouds will clear by Wednesday but the temperature would stay cool in Auckland, with a high of 14C for the rest of week and lows of between 4C-6C.

The weather is less severe in Whangārei today, with a few showers forecasted before clearing and turning fine.

Meanwhile, as one part of the country is coated in snow, those in Horowhenua are facing the possibility they may run out of water.

The Horowhenua District Council has pleaded for thousands of residents in Levin, Tokomaru and Shannon to reduce or stop using water immediately.

Due to the recent rain, water-treatment plants have struggled to effectively treat the muddy river water for the region’s drinking water supplies.

“If residents don’t act to reduce water usage or stop completely if they’re able, there is a real risk that the water supply will run out and the community will need to rely on bottled water or water tanker supplies to service their minimum requirements,” the council said.

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