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Snow in New Zealand: Pleading for end to epic wintery blast

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Sarah Ivey/New Zealand Herald/AP

(Read caption) People walk through a main street under snow in Auckland, New Zealand, Monday, Aug. 15. Services across the country were disrupted Monday by the snowfalls, which were accompanied by heavy rain and high winds.

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

First came the once-in-a-lifetime arrival of an emperor penguin in June, and now New Zealand is being visited by the sort of weather only Happy Feet, as the little waddler came to be known, could love.

What began late Sunday afternoon as a few fat flakes – quick, honey, grab the camera, this'll be gone in a minute! – soon turned into an all-out blizzard as the unusually strong Antarctic front lingered over the island nation like some extremely unpleasant dinner party guest.

Freezing cold and snow have blanketed virtually all of the country, even typically mild cities such as Wellington and Auckland, which last saw accumulated snow 45 and 72 years ago, respectively.

Most of the airports have been sporadically closed at one point or another over the past three bitterly cold days, as have many schools. Power supplies have come and gone. As much as two feet of snow have been reported in some places, with neighborhoods here in the sea-level capital recording several inches of the white stuff.

The worst of the excesses are reportedly out of the way: What I can see of the conditions outside my window right now appear to be merely awful.

I can’t wait for this Antarctic visitor to exit the scene altogether. Oh sure, I love snow and the postcard trappings of winter – I used to live in Washington where these things were par for the meteorological course. But this cold wave has all been a bit too much.

And what about the other wayward South Pole guest we’ve been entertaining here recently? The New Zealand Herald reports that Happy Feet, too, will shortly be taking his leave, with the Wellington Zoo and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research having just announced that the penguin will be shipped out to sea at month’s end. We can only hope he remembers to pack the weather with him.

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