Weather: More than 1000 lightning strikes recorded overnight as wintry blast hits

More than 1000 lightning strikes have been recorded in the last few hours, as winter makes its move over parts of the country today.

MetService said up to 1200 strikes were recorded overnight.

“The radar and lightning network is getting a good workout this morning,” a MetService tweet said just before 7.30am.

It comes as severe weather warnings and watches have been issued over a number of areas of New Zealand where heavy rain, strong winds and snow are expected, particularly in the south.

Those in Northland to Manawatū – including the Coromandel, Bay of Plenty and the central high country – can expect some brief rain this morning that is possibly going to become heavy and thundery in the west from Auckland to Taranaki.

If you are in Auckland do not forget an umbrella before leaving the house.

A period of morning rain, briefly heavy, is forecast early on. There is a possibility of squally thunderstorms too.

A temperature high of 18C is expected in the City of Sails and an overnight low of 14C.

Despite the rain this morning, MetService is also forecasting fine spells and a few showers throughout the day. Northwesterly winds will become strong late this morning.

There is some reprieve in Gisborne to Wairarapa, which is expected to be mainly fine today.

Some rain is expected, however, about the ranges this morning, with severe westerly gales in exposed parts of Central Hawke’s Bay and the Tararua District.

Wellington can expect showers this morning before making way for sunny breaks and brisk to strong northwesterly winds, according to WeatherWatch. Temperature highs of up to 14C and 15C are forecast in the Capital.

Palmerston North is in for a grim day.

A period of early morning rain is on the cards and it will possibly become heavy before turning into showers.

Strong westerly winds are also forecast, while a high of 15C and an overnight low of 11C is expected there.

Further south, Canterbury is in for snow flurries to 600m before clearing up this afternoon. It will be a chilly day for those in the area, however – with a high of about 9C forecast.

Southland and Otago locals can expect highs of about 8C to 10C.

WeatherWatch said wintry showers and even some hail could fall in the region today.

“Conditions start to ease a little from late afternoon.”

Snow flurries to 300m in the morning then 400m the rest of the day are forecast, before lifting overnight.

Severe weather warnings

A heavy snow warning is in place in Fiordland until about 3pm.

Locals are warned that heavy snow may disrupt travel in affected areas and could damage trees and powerlines. Cold conditions may also cause stress for livestock.

A spokesman said snow would be heavy at time and people could expect between 15cm to 20cm of snow to accumulate above 300m. Lesser amounts will be down to about 200m.

A strong wind warning is in place for the Tararua District, Hawke’s Bay south of Hastings and also inland Hawke’s Bay south of State Highway 5.

That warning is valid up until about 9pm, MetService says.

“Strong wind gusts could damage trees, powerlines and unsecured structures.”

Motorists are warned that driving in those conditions may be hazardous – particularly high-sided vehicles and motorcycles.

Those in Southland, Clutha and central Otago south of about Roxburgh are encouraged to stay up-to-date with weather updates as a heavy snow watch has been announced.

Snow amounts may approach “warning criteria” above 300m, MetService said.

Further snow showers are also a possibility this afternoon. The good news, however, is that significant accumulations of snow are no longer expected.

Meanwhile, a strong wind watch is in place inland Gisborne and inland Hawke’s Bay, north of SH5, until about 3pm.

Those in Nelson, north of Kōhatu, and the Marlborough Sounds also have a strong wind watch over them until about 9pm.

Wairarapa, Wellington, Coastal Clutha and Dunedin – as well as Coastal Southland including Stewart Island – also have a wind watch today.

Road snowfall warnings

Motorists are being told to keep a close eye on road snowfall warnings that have been put out by weather authorities also.

Snowfall warnings on Arthur’s Pass (SH73), Porters Pass (SH73), Lindis Pass (SH8) and Crown Range Rd are all set to lift by about 8am.

Those planning to travel on Milford Rd (SH94) today should know that warning is not due to lift until tonight about 6pm.

“Expect a further 20cm to 30cm of snow to settle near the tunnel on top of what has already fallen, with lesser amounts down to 300m.”

MetService is due to put out an update on running road snowfall warnings at 11am.

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