Cold closes high­way un­til Mon­day

The Press - - News -

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 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.

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