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Monday, July 25, 2011

Snow eases in parts of south, but ice return, NEW ZEALAND - 25th July 2011

Transport problems are easing for people in the South Island, but police are warning that the extreme weather conditions will still present serious hazards to drivers.

Dozens of roads in the lower South Island and Canterbury were closed from Sunday due to heavy snow falls.

MetService says the storm may be the worst since 1995.

The Transport Agency says as of Monday afternoon it had reopened all major highways and the only ones still closed were lesser highways in Southland and Otago.

It warned, however, melting snow is expected to freeze overnight, which could create treacherous, icy conditions. It is still recommending people travel only if it is essential, and then only in 4WD vehicles and chains.

Agency national operations manager Dave Bates says crews have been working all day to clear roads but snow is still falling heavily in some areas, meaning work is difficult.

AA spokesperson Simon Lambourne says a number of people who have met with trouble have done so because they don't know how to drive in the icy conditions

Christchurch, Queenstown and Dunedin Airport have all cleared their runways of snow, and limited flights resumed on Monday afternoon.

Lines company Orion says power has been restored to all but a few small pockets in Canterbury, with about 50 homes still without power.

About 1,700 homes in Christchurch were without power earlier on Monday afternoon, including homes in the earthquake-affected suburbs of Burwood and Spencerville.

In Christchurch, where Radio New Zealand reporters measured snow as deep as 15cm, it was falling as fast as contractors could clear it on major routes, including around the four avenues.

Christchurch Airport incident controller Geoff Eban says staff tried to clear snow from the runways and aircraft parking areas for much of the day with snow ploughs and a grader, but each time they did so, more snow fell.

The Fire Service reported power lines down in Christchurch and Rakaia, while tree branches fell on to roads with the weight of snow.

St John Ambulance attended 19 incidents, in which people were injured by slipping on ice or snow, around the South Island during the morning.

Some firms are reporting only a handful of personnel were able to make it in to work. Source