Trucks snowed in on closed Desert Road

SH1, 4, and 49 are closed following a heavy dumping of snow. Photo: NZTA/Twitter.

Truck drivers spent a cold night sleeping in their cabs as snow blocked the Desert Road (SH1) in the central North Island.

In the biggest dump so far this winter 16cm of snow accumulated overnight forcing the closure of SH1 from Taihape to Rangipo and SH49 from Waiouru to Tohunga Junction.

Drivers have to detour via SH3 Whanganui, SH4 Raetihi, SH47 and SH46 Tongariro.

Tyson Burrows from the Rustic Eating House in Waiouru says motels were fully booked as drivers waited out the snowfall.

He says some trucks were completely snowed in and snow ploughs were struggling to clear the drifts.

Meanwhile, a heavy snow watch remains in place for Banks Peninsula, with snow forecast to low levels in some places.

MetService has issued road snowfall warnings through to midday:

  •   •  Desert Road (SH1) Snow showers expected about and south of the summit. Between 6am and midday a further 1 to 2cm may accumulate above 600 metres with lesser amounts to 400 metres.

  •   •  Remutaka Hill Road (SH2) Snow showers are expected this morning. Between 6am and 11am Thursday, a further 1cm or less of snow may accumulate about the summit, with lesser amounts to 400 metres.

  •   •  Lewis Pass (SH7) Snow showers are expected to affect eastern parts of the road during the morning. Between 6am and 10am , a further 2 to 4cm may accumulate above 400 metres, with lesser amounts to 300 metres.

There are no road snowfall warnings in force for Napier-Taupō Road (SH5), Arthur's Pass (SH73), Porters Pass (SH73), Haast Pass (SH6), Lindis Pass (SH8), Crown Range Road, Milford Road (SH94), Dunedin to Waitati Highway (SH1)

SH1/Desert Road and SH49 from Tohunga Junction (Ohakune) to Waiouru are both closed due to snow.

SH4 is also closed between Raetihi and Whanganui as a truck has rolled and is blocking the road.

The Taihape – Napier Road is also closed due to snowfall.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Waikato System Manager Cara Lauder says motorists are advised to delay their travel.

“The alternative routes, via State Highway 3 New Plymouth or State Highway 5 Napier will add considerable time to people’s journeys. We are also advising caution on SH5 between Taupo and Napier. Be prepared for winter driving conditions, including snow and ice.

“Plan ahead and allow extra time for your journeys and drive to the road and weather conditions.

"Maintain a greater following distance between your vehicle and the one in front, and to slow down and be prepared for unexpected hazards.”

Visit for up to date information on road closures, traffic, detours and delays.

"Waka Kotahi thanks motorists for their patience."

Winter driving tips

  • Check weather and travel conditions on highways before you start your trip and on breaks throughout your journey - use or call 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49).
  • Ensure your car is safe and equipped: spare tyre, warrant of fitness up-to-date, lights, brakes and wind-wipers all working, clean windscreen inside and out, check tyre treads to ensure good grip.
  • If you are travelling long distances, share the driving and have regular breaks.
  • Wear your seat belt throughout the journey and check your passengers have theirs clicked in too.
  • Driving on roads that are exposed to snow and ice can be treacherous, so slow down and drive to the conditions, not the allowable/legal speed limit. Increase the following distance between you and the vehicle ahead.
  • Be prepared when travelling in case of delays on the road, particularly in alpine conditions. Make sure you have warm clothes/food/water/charged mobile phone. In an emergency, phone 111. Bear in mind some parts of the highway have no cell coverage.
  • Learn about winter driving, including how to get your vehicle ready and if you are driving in an area where chains may be needed, practise putting them on before you go so you are not caught out.

Plan ahead for a safe, enjoyable journey. Keep up to date with:

Phone: 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49)

-Additional reporting by RNZ

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