Kiwis revel in unexpected snowfall

Tuesday 16th Aug 2011 by theWeather Club

New Zealand is known for its extremes of weather, but it seems that the climate still has the capacity to surprise the locals. Snow fell in downtown Auckland for the first time in 72 years as what local forecasters called ‘a once in a lifetime polar blast’ spread across the country. Widespread reports of snow emerged as bitterly cold and stormy conditions set in around Auckland. Weatherwatch.co.nz confirmed snowflakes had fallen in Auckland city centre for the first time since the 1930s.

MetService head forecaster Peter Kreft told local news outlets that the polar blast was ‘of the order of a 50 year event’ and warned it could last for several more days. “It's a once in many decades event. We are probably looking at something like - in terms of extent and severity, maybe 50 years,” he said. The bitterly cold southerly blast has brought snow to most of New Zealand, closing roads, some airports and cutting power to thousands. The front was bringing snow to parts of the country which did not usually see it.

In Christchurch the Orana Zoo closed to the public because of the snow. “Ninety-nine per cent of the animals are inside,” animal collection manager Ian Adams told reporters. “We haven't had much snow, probably just two to three inches. The wind chill is the issue, it's much colder than usually.” Mr Adams said the key when the temperature dips was to keep the animals well fed and sheltered.

Levels of snow that fell in the country's capital Wellington have not been seen since the 1970s. However, as is often the case with snow, there are many who are revelling in the experience. The snowfall in Wellington caused excitement and chaos throughout the city. Even actor Stephen Fry, who is in Wellington filming The Hobbit, got in on the Twitter frenzy. “It's been an exciting day here in Wellington. Snow. That's unusual ... NZ is same latitude as Melbourne so it's rare,” Fry tweeted. Kelsey Pilbrow tweeted “In Wellington playing in the SNOW!!! There’s so much of it!! Yee snow fights and snow men!"

Thomas Beagle, from the Wellington suburb of Northland, told the Herald he had never seen anything like it in the 40 years he had been in the city. “It's really incredible. Everyone's very excited about it and getting out there ... I think they're hoping for more snow tomorrow so they don't have to go to work.”