New Zealand hit by ‘weather bomb’

Wellington, Jan 23 (IANS) A powerful “weather bomb” hit New Zealand, cutting off rural towns, flooding major roads and dumping snow on to bare alpine ski fields at what should be the height of the southern hemisphere summer, media reported on Monday.

The significant low edged over the South Island on January 19, causing landslides and snow, and went on to lash the country throughout the weekend, the Guardian reported.

Auckland in the North Island suffered major power outages, while rivers on the west coast of the South Island rose rapidly in a matter of hours, lapping at road-sides and carrying large debris, including trees washed down from the Southern Alps.

Warnings and road closures are still in place in the central and southern parts of the South Island and the Southland farming town of Waikaia remains cut off.

The MetService said “extreme” weather events such as the weather bomb were becoming increasingly common in New Zealand, which already had challenging weather patterns because of its close proximity to Antarctica and its narrow, alpine environment, the Guardian reported.

“New Zealand is prone to extreme and rapid variations in temperature and it can get really cold regardless of the season because of our proximity to Antarctica,” said Mads Naeraa-Spiers, a forecaster for the MetService.

“While it was snowing in the South Island, some parts of the North Island were recording temperatures in the high 20s.”

On Monday, the Met Service issued another severe weather warning for most parts of the South Island, expected to arrive by Tuesday afternoon and bring gales and heavy rains.