New Zealand authorities canceled flights, closed down roads, and shut down essential services after an Antarctic polar blast swept through the country on Tuesday bringing heavy snow, powerful waves, and cold temperatures.
Wellington, the North Island capital city of the region, experienced one of the worst tidal storms in years. Officials are urging residents to stay aware and be ready to evacuate their homes in anticipation of large swells that are expected to arrive in the next 24 hours.
In a statement on their website, regional emergency authorities warned the residents whose homes have previously been affected by swells and storm events to be prepared to experience harsh weather phenomena.
Powerful Antarctic Polar Blast
New Zealand leaders declared a state of emergency for the southern and eastern areas of Wellington as dozens of flights and ferry services were postponed. Authorities also took the initiative to close down schools, keeping students and faculty safe from the devastations of the storm.
Weather officials reported hail storms bearing down in Wellington earlier in the day as cold winds brought a blanket of snow. The storm events were also observed in South Island cities, including Christchurch, Dunedin, and Queenstown.
Officials also warned motorists of the danger as roads have become hazardous due to the storm's snow and high winds, Reuters reported.
Coastal residents have been cautioned to be ready for evacuation as light snow fell across Wellington and sea-level areas. Greta Point's Wellington campus is also seeing sea-level snow drifting across the area. Temperatures in the southern continent plummeted as an ice-laced wind swept across the region.
Earlier this morning, Taranaki also experienced some light snow, forcing authorities to close down the Desert Rd. The Napier-Taupo highway was also covered in a blanket of snow due to the weather event.
A Facebook post by the regional emergency management office said the swells would be at their heaviest from 9:00 p.m. onwards. Meanwhile, from 8:00 p.m. today, the MetService forecast powerful swells across the capital coastline.
Caution for Outdoor Activities
Authorities expect large waves to pummel the inner harbor area along the Petone and Eastbourne coastlines. However, they said the South Coast was not going to experience significant impacts.
A Police Maritime Unit spokesperson warned residents to avoid or delay unnecessarily going outdoors and doing any outdoor activities during the severe weather conditions in Wellington. They emphasized that the dangers the phenomenon caused on both land and sea could catch people off guard. MetService reported the temperature was at 4.3 C with a wind chill that makes it feel like the area was at -2 C.
Gerard Bellam, a MetService forecaster, said large, high-energy waves were expected to pose a significant threat to any seaboard location in the next 24 hours. These water events could catch people off guard and pull them into the deeper parts of the ocean, NZ Herald reported.