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Live: Tornadoes strike coastal town, Harbour Bridge under severe wind watch

Massive snowfall in Glenorchy. Video / George Heard

Massive snowfall in Glenorchy. Video / George Heard

• Warning of isolated tornadoes
• Strong winds spark Auckland Harbour Bridge warning
• 21,500 lightning strikes over land and water in 12 hours
• NZTA is advising motorists of potential disruptions to Monday morning travel in Auckland

A wild winter storm - with heavy rain, snow and isolated tornadoes - is set to intensify and spread further across New Zealand today, with dozens of warnings in place.

Aucklanders are being warned to expect a wild Monday morning commute as more severe weather is forecast to lash the country. Officials are also warning of the possible full closure of the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

The grim forecast follows a wild weekend of weather, including at least two small tornadoes at Waikanae Beach on the Kāpiti Coast, flooding in the Wellington regions and heavy snowfall in parts of the South Island.

There were more than 21,500 lightning strikes over land and water in 12 hours yesterday, MetService said.

There were 41 warnings and watches across the country last night - 18 across the North Island and 23 on the South Island.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning issued for Auckland Radar Area

— MetService Severe Weather Info (@MetServiceWARN) June 12, 2022

Severe thunderstorm warnings were issued by MetService for Wellington city, Porirua, Hutt City, Upper Hutt, Kāpiti Coast, South Wairarapa, Taranaki and up the west coast beyond Raglan, and extending south across a choppy Cook Strait to Marlborough, Nelson, Buller and the Canterbury high country.

Waka Kotahi NZTA is advising motorists of potential disruptions to Monday morning travel in Auckland, and Auckland Transport also said there could be delays or cancellations to public transport today.

The agency said there was a severe wind watch in place for the Auckland Harbour Bridge and a severe thunderstorm watch for the region.

MetService forecasts wind gusts could reach 80-100km/h until 10pm tonight. .

Waka Kotahi said this could result in speed restrictions, lane closures or potentially a full bridge closure.

Be prepared for a possible closure of the Harbour Bridge as @metservice is forecasting wind gusts of between 80-100km/h from 8pm, Sun 12 to 10pm Mon 13 Jun. High sided vehicles & motorcyclists are advised to use SH16 & SH18 as an alternate route.

— Waka Kotahi NZTA Auckland & Northland (@WakaKotahiAkNth) June 12, 2022

Drivers of high-sided vehicles and motorcyclists are being encouraged to avoid the harbour bridge while wind warnings are in place, and use State Highways 16 and 18.

Maintenance crews will be out on the Auckland transport network ready to react to adverse weather conditions and close lanes on the bridge if wind gusts exceed threshold levels, Waka Kotahi said.

"Should a full closure of the bridge for safety reasons be necessary on Monday morning, significant congestion can be expected across the network," the agency warned.

"In that event, motorists should expect long delays and avoid non-essential travel."

Motorists are urged to drive to the conditions, look out for the electronic message boards which will indicate lane closures and reduced speeds, and stay within their lane while travelling across the bridge.

Travellers are also advised to plan ahead by checking the Waka Kotahi journey planner website or its Twitter account.

Kāpiti Coast tornadoes

Two small tornadoes have reportedly stormed through Waikanae Beach, Kāpiti Coast, on Sunday evening.

Reports on social media suggest windows and doors have been blown in, with uprooted trees and damaged cars.

One local wrote on social media that their trampoline was now gone and that the experience was 'f*****' scary".

The first tornado was spotted around 4pm – while another was reported to emergency services just after 7pm.

MetService duty forecaster Gerard Bellam said heavy rainfall in the area – with 20mm an hour between 4pm and 6pm, and another 16mm between 6pm and 7pm – could produce that sort of weather activity.

"There is a line of active thunderstorms crossing that area at the moment."

Snow in the South

Snow blanketed parts of Central Otago yesterday, bringing joy to the region's ski fields, with Cardrona ski field opening early and other southern mountains set to follow suit in the coming days.

Road snowfall warnings have been issued for the Desert Rd, Lewis Pass, Arthur's Pass, Lindis Pass, the Crown Range Rd and Milford Rd.

🌨️Over the last few days, large parts of the South Island have seen persistent snow and impressive accumulations. At our Mueller Hut weather station (1800m asl) in Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park, snow depths now exceed 1.5m - with more to come!

— NIWA Weather (@NiwaWeather) June 12, 2022

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency said Lindis Pass was closed just after 10am because of heavy snow, while snow had also closed Milford Rd and the Crown Range Rd.

The wild winter weather created chaos across parts of Otago and Southland during the weekend, and forecasters are urging southerners to brace themselves for more of the same over the next few days.

Heavy rain, snow showers and winds gusting up to 100km/h kept emergency services busy in Dunedin with small landslips in Caversham; heavy flooding in Marne St, Andersons Bay; fencing and a fallen tree over roads; and ice on the Northern Motorway.

A police spokeswoman said it was a similar scene in Central Otago and the Lakes area.

Heavy rainfall yesterday caused flooding on State Highway 6 between Luggate and Cromwell as well as at the intersection of Frankton and Perkins Rds, in Queenstown.

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Police were also alerted to several weather-related incidents across the region as cars struggled in slippery conditions, including a car which slid backwards on ice down Weaver St, Queenstown, about 3pm yesterday.

It became stuck and needed to be towed. No injuries were reported, she said.

Skifields made the most of the snow storm on Saturday, but after snow drifts reached about a metre and more heavy snow fell overnight, several closed their gates yesterday.

MetService meteorologist Stephen Glassey said temperatures dropped below zero for much of the region, including Dunedin Airport where it dropped to -4.4degC yesterday morning.

He said snowfall was heaviest in the Lakes area and the Milford Rd where about 70cm fell at the Homer Tunnel; and in a rare event, it fell to sea level on Stewart Island.

Last night, the MetService was forecasting severe thunderstorms with heavy rain, large hail, strong squally wind gusts and possible tornadoes overnight in Fiordland, Westland and the Canterbury High Country.

- Additional reporting, Otago Daily Times