Waka Kotahi is advising people to take extreme care and consider delaying their journey through exposed inland areas of South Canterbury today and this week, especially if they are driving high-sided vehicles like campervans, towing a boat or caravan or riding motorbikes.
This afternoon high winds brought down multiple power poles and an overhead electricity line south of Twizel on SH8, closing the section of highway between Twizel and Glenbrook.
“Wind gusts of more than 100km/h and dust are affecting driving conditions across much of the region and on inland routes making conditions hazardous,” says John Keenan, Waka Kotahi Maintenance Contract Manager in South Canterbury.
Motorists should reduce their speed and be prepared to stop in case of wind-blown debris, downed trees or powerlines, he says.
“In South Canterbury, we have had five vehicles towing boats or caravans flip over or be blown off the road in the past four days. Two of these crashes caused road closures on SH8, between Omarama and Fairlie and SH80, the road into Aoraki/ Mt Cook on Sunday. It is extremely dangerous for car occupants and nearby road users if this occurs.”
SH8 south of Twizel is currently closed due to powerlines on the highway.
Other parts of the network are open but conditions can change quickly so people should check the Waka Kotahi traffic map before heading out. “Wind gusts can come without warning, so people need to be aware of the risk in exposed parts of the high country,” says Mr Keenan.
Drivers should be prepared for significant rain, ongoing wind and snow later in the week across several parts of the South Island, says Waka Kotahi and MetService.
Orange rain warnings are in place across the West Coast, Central Otago and Southland/Fiordland and this weather is expected to go through until Friday.
SH94 into Milford Sound/ Piopiotahi is closing tonight at 5 pm and could be closed all day Thursday due to heavy rain raising the avalanche risk.
An amber/orange rain alert is in place for the Lindis Pass Thursday with the potential for snow Friday.
From Friday it is likely Canterbury will be under snow warnings, particularly across the Alpine Passes (SH73 Porters and Arthur’s Passes and SH7, the Lewis Pass) so people should start making plans around that and stay up to date with the latest forecasts.