Wild weather hit Wellington last night with heavy rain and strong winds. Winds reaching 200 km an hour caused a lot of damage. Winds lifted roofs off houses. Trees and power lines came down. About 30,000 homes lost their electricity. Huge waves broke sea walls and damaged houses near the sea. The airport was closed and some trains could not operate in and out of Wellington. There were no ferry sailings between Wellington and Picton.
Meanwhile in the South Island, snow closed roads in many inland places. All 6 mountain passes were closed for some time; the Lindis Pass and Burkes Pass between Fairlie and Queenstown are still closed 24 hours later, while chains are needed on other passes. Snow has caused problems for farmers trying to feed animals. They use a bulldozer to make a path where they drop hay for the animals. New Zealand farmers do not keep their animals in barns because snow is not usual.
The 10-day Queenstown Winter Festival starts tonight. They have plenty of snow to celebrate the event but the problem is that tourists can’t get to Queenstown easily with roads and airports closed.
Today is also the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Tomorrow, many people will celebrate by taking part in a polar plunge at some beaches – a quick dip in the sea and maybe a hot toddy (an alcoholic drink) to warm up afterwards.
• huge – very, very big
• ferry – ships that travel across Cook Strait
• mountain pass – lowest place on a mountain where a road goes through from one side to the other
• chains – on the tyres for safety in snow
• bulldozer – big tractor which clears a path through the snow
• solstice – when the sun reaches its lowest point
• polar – very cold like at the north or south pole
• plunge, dip – dive into the water