Huge waves hitting New Zealand's eastern coastline

Huge waves hitting New Zealand's eastern coastline

A strong, cold southwesterly flow started affecting New Zealand's South Island on Tuesday, June 13, 2017, lowering temperatures, bringing gale-force winds, huge waves, and snow to some areas. The front is still affecting the country, moving north and bringing a blast of cold air. Met Service said the weather will ease up by Friday morning, but very large and potentially damaging seas are possible about some eastern and southern coasts, including the Wellington south coast today into Thursday. Ferry services between islands have been canceled and expected to resume on Thursday, June 15.

Local media reported parts of the country woke to frost on windscreens Tuesday morning after overnight temperatures dipped below zero. At the same time, meteorologists warned the worst was still to come. The cold snap the country experienced into Wednesday didn't match the polar blast experienced at the start of May, but snow did fall on parts of South Island. 

On Wednesday, June 14, snow and ice have closed roads across the South Island and ferry services between the islands have been canceled. New Zealand Herald reported a number of main highways in Southland and Otago were closed after snow fell to low levels late Tuesday. "The bitter cold snap is bringing icy gales to many parts of New Zealand," it said.

New Zealand Met Service said big swells were set to hit the east coast and 5 m (16 feet) waves were already pounding Christchurch on Tuesday. Their models show waves higher than 7 m (23 feet) and possibly even 10 m (32.8 feet) will hit beaches over the next 24 hours.

At 06:15 UTC (18:15 NZST) today, Met Service said winds are easing across the South Island, but are still strong on the North Island's East Coast.

People living along the southern Wellington coastline are being warned to expect big surges across roads and possible flooding after 20:00 NZST, coinciding with high tide.

As of Wednesday afternoon (local time), Coastal Storm Warnings are in effect for Castlepoint, Conway, Portland, and Rangitata. Coastal Gale Warnings are in effect for Chalmers, Chatham Islands, Colville, Cook, Foveaux, Grey, Plenty, Puysegur, Ragland, and Stephens. High seas warnings are in effect for Forties, Pacific, Southern, and Subtropic.

Featured image: Huge waves in Princess Bay, Wellington on the afternoon of June 14, 2017 (NZST). Credit: NIWA

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