Schoolchildren in Auckland marvel at the first snow to stick on the ground downtown since 1939. (Sarah Ivey/New Zealand Herald/Associated Press)

Blizzards across the lower South Island dumped heavy snow in Christchurch and Queenstown, closing airports, cutting power, and creating treacherous road conditions across the island nation. Southern regions and higher elevations have reported as much as 30-60 cm (1-2 ft) in recent days.

The wintry blast is being described as a once-in-a-lifetime event, bringing snow to the capital city of Wellington and as far north as the Auckland region for the first time since the 1970s.

Snow actually settled on the ground in downtown Auckland reported IOL news. According to the New Zealand Herald, downtown Auckland last witnessed accumulating snow in 1939. The city also recorded its lowest daily high temperature since official records began there in 1961. On Monday, the temperature only rose to 8.2 C (47 F), breaking the previous record low maximum of 8.7 C set in July 1996. Average high/low temperatures for the city are about 59/45 F even during the second-coldest month of the year.

While this year’s snow was short-lived (it later mixed with rain showers), many Auckland residents were nonetheless in awe of the unusual precipitation while it lasted. The Herald writes:

The snow caused waves of excitement in Auckland. Kevin Prohl saw a snow flurry as he was driving…and described it as a fairy tale. “Looking at oncoming drivers and seeing their smiles as we were fascinated by this unusual occurrence - it was truly delightful to see, yet all too short.”

Due to the lack of extensive landmasses south of the equator, mid-latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere rarely experience the severe cold and snow familiar to many areas of the Northern Hemisphere. The New Zealand cold wave comes just weeks after unusual snow in South Africa and parts of Chile.

Longing for snow as summer drags on? Check out photos and video of New Zealand’s winter wonderland.

And see this video footage on the snow from the Associated Press:

Description: New Zealand has been hit by a severe snow storm, and residents are being warned to stock up on emergency food and water. Dozens of major roads remain closed across the North and South Islands and many postal deliveries have been cancelled.