Epic Wakatipu snow dump police warn drivers

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The Wakatipu – like most of the South Island – has been blanketed in snow overnight with 20cm on the ground downtown. 

The unprecedented wintry blast has shut all Wakatipu schools whilst the road between Kingston and Frankton is closed and chains must be carried everywhere else. 

The Queenstown Airport runway has been closed all day – that decision will be reassessed at 7am tomorrow (Tuesday). 

It continues to snow heavily downtown – at this stage both Queenstown ski fields Coronet Peak and The Remarkables are open. 

Police warn motorists
Queenstown police are urging people not to drive unless it’s an emergency. 

Queenstown sergeant Brian Cameron says all motorists should have warm clothing and food in case of unforeseen delay. 

“If you do go out, take chains and fit them,” he says, adding that includes people driving 4WD vehicles.

“My advice is unless it’s an emergency, don’t go out.”

State Highways to Frankton closed
Queenstown Lakes District Council transport boss Denis Mander says closed state highways include Frankton to Kingston.
 
Queenstown’s downtown library is open despite a one-hour delay this morning. Queenstown rubbish collection has been cancelled and New Zealand Post has advised mail delivery has been cancelled in Queenstown and Wanaka.

Snow fields are open – but drive with care
The Remarkables snow report describes blizzard conditions and a wind-chilled temperature of minus 6.3 degrees Celsius. The report warns drivers to watch out for snow-clearing machinery and ensure chains are fitted at the bottom of the access road. 

It’s slightly warmer at Coronet Peak at minus 5.6 degrees Celsius. Coronet’s snow report says 27cm of new snow arrived during the past 24 hours with 22cm overnight. 

“Epic skiing and riding with powder on all slopes,” it says. 

The Remarkables ski area manager Ross Lawrence says people who aren’t confident in fitting chains properly and driving in snow are best to catch the bus up.

Visibility is “variable” and more snow is expected to fall, he says.

“There’s anything from 30cm to waist-deep of new snow on The Remarkables. It returns us back to winter – we love it,” Lawrence adds. 

Some hearty Queenstowners are still heading to work – Irish sisters Olivia and Veronica Harte  (pictured) made their way along a snow-covered Hallenstein Street up Queenstown Hill this morning (Monday) on their way to their housekeeping gig at the Garden Court Suites and Apartments. 

“It’s cool – except for when hit turns to ice. But it’s grand when it’s like this – it’s gorgeous,” Olivia says.

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