Snow dump closes schools – flights cancelled, roads treacherous


Heavy snow continues to fall across Queenstown and the region this morning closing schools and rendering some roads impassable.

All schools in the Wakatipu are closed today.

State Highway 6 is closed from The Remarkables turnoff to Dipton. All other roads are open according the 9.45am update from Queenstown Lakes District Council.

The authority advises chains are to be carried on local roads. Chains are essential on the Crown Range.

All flights have been cancelled at Queenstown Airport.

Queenstowners awoke to the first snow covering to lake level of winter, creating a picturesque scene but treacherous driving conditions.

“We advise people not to travel unless they have to,” senior constable Chris Blackford says.

“If they do they should keep their speed down and leave a much greater following distance to the vehicle in front.”

Some fender benders have been reported but no major crashes as yet.

The Antarctic blast led to -6degrees temperatures overnight and a high of 3degrees today according to The MetService. The conditions should improve to fine weather tomorrow.

Wakatipu High principal Steve Hall says he and his deputy started weather-watching last night and talking to roading contractors. 

A major reason for closure was that half the school buses wouldn’t be able to run and nearly 90 per cent of his pupils travel by school bus.

“Town’s not so bad but certainly out in the Basin it’s no good at all and we would have ended up with lots of kids and staff not able to get there,” Hall says.

Hall says his school is the pivot point for school buses. “We feed that out to the other schools and then they make their own calls based on that.

Asked about tomorrow, he says: “The weather looks OK but another but frost is forecast tonight; the thing will be whether we’ve got snowy and wet roads in the morning.”

Queenstown Lakes District Council’s latest update states the expectation from the rain radar is for another two-three hours of snow before it starts to ease.

“The main threat appears to be risk of ice this evening,” it reads. “[We’re] waiting for snow to stop falling before gritting.”

Snow appears to be focussed on Arrowtown, Crown Range, Frankton, Dalefield and Kingston Road. A total of 14 snow-ploughs and other machinery are operating in the Wakatipu and the Crown Range.

In Frankton, the State Highway is stop-start and there is gridlock between the BP roundabout and Frankton Marina.

There is also snow on the roads in Arrowtown and Dalefield, with 5cms on Lower Shotover and Speargrass roads.

The New Zealand Transport Agency is applying a substance to prevent icing to State Highway 6 and a council truck is clearing the roads to Remarkables Park.

Major roads in the CBD, Arthurs Point, Fernhill and Glenorchy Road are mostly black.

Queenstown Airport Corporation boss Scott Patterson says there’ve been no flights in or out this morning due to poor visibility.

Patterson says the runway is being kept clear of snow, however.

Thankfully, he says the fall’s occurring on the quietest day of the week during the quietest month of the year.

A decision will be taken later today on when flights will resume.

Queenstown Events Centre will close at 12noon today due to the weather and is likely to reopen at 9am tomorrow.