Highway reopens, still treacherous


State Highway 6 between Queenstown and Cromwell has reopened.

The route was closed this morning because of what some people are calling the worst black ice in a decade.

Authorities warn care is still required, particularly in shady spots.

Flights in and out of Queenstown Airport were on hold this morning due to ice on the runway, in a “never seen before” snap freeze.

Queenstown Airport boss Scott Paterson says half a dozen flights were affected by this morning’s ice.

While all international flights were running to schedule, the morning’s flights had to be diverted.

“The feedback we had from the rescue fire guys who do this inspection work was they have never seen anything like this before.

“We basically had rain first up, the rain stopped and then suddenly Queenstown was snap frozen. All that water on the runway and the roads just turned to ice.”

The runway’s now clear of ice. The first two inbound aircraft were scheduled to land at noon.

Senior Sergeant Brian Benn, of southern district, says black ice has made Central Otago roads treacherous.

“Around Arrowtown junction is particularly bad,” he said this morning.

“There were at least three grit trucks out working and they were unable to make the road safe – they closed it because of the moisture and then the freezing conditions.

“We had several crashes this morning. The worst is one down in Gore when a van rolled. Six people were injured in that crash. Two helicopters were flown from Dunedin as part of the medical response.

“Drive to the conditions – that’s the strong message. Allow some extra time for your journey – be particularly aware of the environment you are in because it all changes. Some parts of the road will have sun on it and be OK – other dark corners won’t.”

Queenstown Primary School opened at 10am today because of the treacherous road conditions. Its website says buses were running 90 minutes late.

There was widespread ice across the district. The council’s Facebook page said this morning: “All roads are affected by black ice, from Glenorchy to Wanaka and everywhere in between.”

Contractors were out with grit trucks on both the local roads and state highways.

There were at least two prangs on the Crown Range Rd turnoff, near Arrowtown.

Motorists were asked to consider delaying their travel or keep speeds down.

Daily newspaper deliveries were affected.

Mountain Scene weather guru Chris Stephenson says: “Following the period of severe frosts this week, the temperature of the road surface is likely to still be close to freezing especially in shaded areas.

“Any rain that falls could potentially freeze upon contact with the road and quickly turn into black ice.”

He warns: “Be extra vigilant if you see rain falling over the next day or so. The air temperature may rise but the road temperature may lag and help to freeze any rain that falls on the surface.”

Stephenson had 23 years in Metservice, including a stint as a non-degreed forecaster writing forecasts for New Zealand media.

Send your icy road and crash pictures to: ed@scene.co.nz