TODAY |

As it happened: Antarctic snow and ice storm blankets parts of New Zealand

The country experienced a wintry blast today with snow and ice blanketing parts of New Zealand and causing widespread disruption.

People enjoy a snow fight on Coronet Peak Source: 1 NEWS

The Antarctic reached as far North as Hawke's Bay, with a rare snowfall recorded in Napier.

Snow in Wanaka

Arrowtown, in Central Otago, also experienced its heaviest snowfall in 30 years, while Dunedin was covered in a white blanket.

Send your weather and snow pictures to news@tvnz.co.nz

5:45pm: Central Hawke's Bay resident Melissa Wiggins sent in these stunning photos earlier from Lookout Rd in Ongaonga.

5:10pm: Hawke's Bay local Sarah Mason sent in these photos from Crownthorpe, just outside Hastings.

Not exactly your place @lyallbaynz, but ferry heading past Pencarrow and into the swell pic.twitter.com/uZNCAWpl7c

— Helen Nelson (@goodearth_Helen) May 25, 2015

4:45pm: The latest southerly storm has given Queenstown’s Coronet Peak and The Remarkables the best possible start to winter with up to half a metre of snow blanketing both ski fields.

Staff at Coronet Peak and The Remarkables found themselves knee-deep in fresh powder this morning.

NZSki CEO Paul Anderson said the snow was perfectly timed for Queenstown’s winter preparations.

"This sets us up for a great start to the 2015 season," he said.

"We’ve got our groomers out working to pack down the snow on piste and we can continue to make more snow on top of this fantastic natural base. This early-season fall will give visitors confidence to book their ski holiday for the coming season."

Opening days are less than three weeks away on June 13 for Coronet Peak and June 20 for The Remarkables.

3:40pm: Mount Aspiring College Students enjoy the day off from school in the snow.

2.30pm: Wanaka resident Robin Griffiths took these "quite stunning" photos of Wanaka this morning.

1:40pm: Queenstown and the surrounding region has been covered in snow this morning giving the local ski areas a good boost before their scheduled opening days in a few weeks' time.

Destination Queenstown CEO Graham Budd says there is a real buzz about town as fresh snowfall signals the ski season is fast approaching.

"Coronet Peak and Cardrona Alpine Resort are both scheduled to open on June 13 with the other mountains following suit in the weeks after so we are really gearing up for winter now, " he said.

Paul Anderson, CEO of NZSki, said the latest southerly storm has given Queenstown's Coronet Peak and The Remarkables the best possible start to winter with up to half a metre of snow blanketing both ski areas.

Cardrona Alpine Resort's General Manager, Bridget Legnavsky, said they have had 30-50cm of snow fall with wind drifts of up to two metres in places across the mountain.

Queenstown will officially welcome the start of the winter season on June 19 when the annual American Express Queenstown Winter Festival kicks off for ten days of live music, street parades, comedy, quirky races and mountain mayhem.

12:16pm: Motorists should think twice about travelling on the Desert Road in the central North Island today because of snowy driving conditions.

Metservice has issued a Snowfall warning for the Desert Road stretch of State Highway 1 where 2 to 4cm of snow is expected to fall by 3pm today.

Snow showers above 900 metres are expected to return early Tuesday morning and continue through the day according to MetService. However little if any snow is expected to settle on the road about and south of the summit. Between 5am and midnight Tueday, less than 1cm may accumulate near the summit.

Road Snowfall Warnings have also been issued for the Lindis Pass and Milford Road in the South Island.

11:15am: Weather conditions are affecting flights in and out of Queenstown Airport and snow is being cleared from the runway. The airport is advising passengers to check with their airline for flight statuses.

Check out Helga in action - we had to bring the big guns out today to clear the snow! Helga shifts 2,700 tonnes/hr. pic.twitter.com/0K6eSM4nxj

— Queenstown Airport (@NZQN) May 24, 2015

11:05am:  Transpower says this morning's power outage that affected 34,000 customers was not weather related. Transpower says a fault occurred during routine maintenance on the transmitter. The incident is currently being investigated

10.27am: There are reports of power outages in Dunedin, with one resident telling ONE News they had been cut off since 3.30am.

Power is back on in parts of Wellington that lost it earlier in the morning.

Weather has turned into absolute crap. Rain and hail all night folllowed by the meanest thunder and power cut. Sitting in absolute darkness

— RGa (@DentistsareCool) May 24, 2015

10:05am: Bad news for Otago farmers with the Metservice advising farmers "that stock may need shelter from the extreme cold and snow."

In addition, severe southwest gales gusting 130 km/h are expected about exposed parts of coastal of Otago.

9:57am: Okay, so Joe and Heather Mickelson tell us it's now snowing in Taupo.

9:35am: In Banks Peninsula there are several road closures due to deteriorating weather conditions. Numerous roads are only open to four wheel drive vehicles with chains.

There are several road closures in Central Otago due to wide spread snow storms.

8:35am: There are reports snow has fallen in Crownthorpe near Fernhill in the Hawke's Bay. Jonty Apatu emailed ONE News a picture and said "It's bloody snowing".

8:20am: Power has been restored to 35,000 customers power across Johnsonville, Cannons Creek, Tawa and Pauatahanui in Wellington.

7:50am: Snow and ice has forced the closure of roads in the South Island and Interislander ferry sailings have been disrupted due to severe weather today.

Strong winds of up to 45 knots and expected 5-6 metre swells in Cook Strait have forced the cancellation of some Interislander

ferry sailings.

Kaitaki's 8:45am sailing out of Wellington and 1:15pm from Picton have been cancelled. Today's Arahura 10:30am and 2:30pm sailings will be freight only.

Gales with the power to topple trees and damage structures are forecast today, as well as heavy snow falls in parts of the south.

A very cold southwesterly flow is spreading across the country and snow is falling almost as low as sea level in the lower South Island.

A heavy snow warning has been issued by Metservice for Fiordland, Southland, Clutha, Dunedin, Central Otago and the Banks Peninsula.

6:00am: In Otago there are several road closures due to snow and ice. They include State Highway 1 from Pine Hill to Waitati; State Highway 87 from Kyeburn to Outram and State Highway 85 from Kyeburn to Palmerston.

The NZTA advises that chains are essential for cars travelling on Arthur's Pass and the Lindis Pass.

State Highway 2 over the Rimutakas in the lower North Island has now reopened after being closed due to snow and ice.

The heaviest falls were expected up until lunchtime today.

A very cold southwesterly flow is spreading across the country and snow is falling almost as low as sea level in the lower South Island.

A heavy snow warning has been issued by Metservice for Fiordland, Southland, Clutha, Dunedin, Central Otago and the Banks Peninsula.

Strong southwesterly gales gusting up to 130km/h were also forecast in several parts of the country through to tomorrow including Banks Peninsula and Stewart Island, as well as coastal parts of Southland, Clutha and Dunedin south of Moeraki.

Winds of this strength could topple trees, damage powerlines and unsecured structures, Metservice said.

Traffic was expected to be heavily disrupted by the snow and caution was urged. Farmers were advised that livestock may need shelter from the conditions.

Locals in Arrowtown say it's the biggest dump of snow they've had in town for 30 years. Source: 1 NEWS