Cold closes highway until Monday
A key highway between Canterbury and the West Coast will remain closed over the weekend as heavy rain and snow continues to batter parts of the South Island.
The weather has also closed several roads and schools in South Canterbury, with Timaru receiving more than its average monthly rainfall in less than 48 hours and Fairlie receiving a decent dusting of snow.
The NZ Transport Agency said State Highway 73 would stay closed between Arthur’s Pass and Jacksons until at least mid-Monday.
An alternate route is available via the Lewis Pass (SH7). Drivers are advised to factor in an additional 90 minutes.
A MetService spokesman said all heavy rain and severe weather warnings had been lifted last night.
He said the front that brought severe weather to central and southern New Zealand was moving north over the North Island and would gradually weaken.
Systems manager Pete Connors said the Goat Creek Bridge remained intact, but the western approach had been washed away.
‘‘It’s still very much as it was built. The bridge was built on a curve on top of a rise in the road . . . The angle of the camera adds to the optical illusion. The creek has spilled through the abutment and a settlement slab has fallen off which is exactly what it is designed to do,’’ he said.
Contractors would need to fill in 5000 cubic metres to build up the road again.
The rain eased off early yesterday afternoon, but the water level needed to go down WeatherWatch.co.nz forecaster Aaron Wilkinson said it was unusual to have snow falling to low levels for inland Canterbury at this time of year. He said snow had fallen about 300m below the expected level of 700m above sea level.
‘‘This is most likely caused by a process called evaporative cooling and it happens very infrequently.’’
Wilkinson said this evaporative cooling process was so rare it only happened about every five years.
Porters Pass (SH73 between Springfield and Arthurs Pass) was closed because of snow. MetService expect the road to be clear by midnight.
Arthur’s Pass Cafe and Store owner Sean Moran said it started snowing about midday yesterday.
‘‘It’s the best snow we’ve seen all year,’’ he said. ‘‘We had a very lean winter . . . we’ve got a very good coating everywhere.’’
SH73 between Arthur’s Pass and Jacksons would remain closed over the weekend due to slips, with the next update expected at 12pm on Monday.
An alternate route is available via the Lewis Pass (SH7).
Motorists are advised to factor in an extra 90 minutes.
SH6 from Hokitika to Franz Josef reopened shortly after 4.30pm.
An NZTA spokesman said motorists should drive with extreme care and at safe speeds, as debris and surface flooding was still affecting many sections of road.
Temporary speed restrictions and lane closures are in place along several areas of the road.
State Highway 1 on the Kaiko¯ ura coast was open but being monitored.
The Christchurch Operations Transport Centre (CTOC) said there were delays on the Christchurch Northern Motorway as drivers slowed down to look at the flooded Waimakariri River on yesterday morning.
Arthur’s Pass was cut off yesterday afternoon, with snow and slips closing State Highway 73 in either direction from the alpine village.