Monday, August 15, 2011
'Once in a lifetime' snow storm hits New Zealand
By Paul Chapman in Wellington
Blizzards lashing the South Island moved on to the more populated North Island, with falls in central Wellington and southern suburbs of Auckland where snow had not been seen since the mid-1970s.
Some flights were grounded, stranding hundreds of passengers in Christchurch, Queenstown and Dunedin, while road transport was thrown into chaos as major traffic arteries became impassable in both islands.
State Highway One, the main road link between the capital Wellington and Auckland, the largest city, was severed when snow blanketed the Mt Ruapehu volcanic plateau in the centre of the North Island.
In the South Island, the skiing and adventure tourism resort of Queenstown was cut off.
Emergency services in four-wheel drive vehicles and a snow plough managed to free more than 100 people who were trapped after nightfall in their cars on a treacherous road over the Rimutaka Hills, north of Wellington.