Friday, August 13, 2010

Bad Weather: Snow What?

Why WERE these people stranded???Gale-force winds stranded about 1200 people on Mt.Hutt skifield overnight Thursday: skiers, snowboarders, schoolkids and staff squashed into a cafe 1600m up the mountain, as winds gusting up to 200kmh (hurricane strength) roared across the South Island skifield. Extreme winds closed the skifield about 11.40am Thurday, with the access road shut at 12.30pm as gales piled up snow drifts and cut visibility.
NZSki chief executive James Coddington said the quick arrival of the bad weather (which he claims was not expected until Friday) had surprised staff. In contrast, the MetService said winds up to 180kmh were expected Thursday, easing around dawn Friday.
Hmmmm, it sounds like someone in NZSki didn't read the forecast properly! Last week, a storm dumped ½m of snow all over that region. And from the start of this week, the MetService has warned of inbound seriously crappy weather due to hit the South Island on Wednesday! On all the tv maps, the imagery looked bad.
But NZSki are not the only ones in error. I wonder why a 300-strong school party went up on that day - surely organisers would have seen the forecasts too? Why didn't they delay the trip until after this storm had passed?
Operators in high-altitude locations, who rely on accurate forecasts, would be monitoring the weather extremely closely, on far more detailed alpine forecasts than what the public sees on telly. So there is NO reason why a small town's worth of people should have become stranded! The skifield should have been cleared and closed before the conditions got so severe!
Was nothing learnt from the 2008 Tongariro canyoning deaths?

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