A deep low pressure system and associated cold front produced snow in many areas in NSW.
So my friend Drew and I headed down, meeting and staying Tenterfield Saturday night, then Guyra Sunday night.
Drew had done this trip a few times in previous years but this was my first "snow chase". Four and a half hours to get to snow never really appealed to me. But considering we hadn't caught up for a while and I had nothing better to do, I decided to give it a crack.
Weather is a fickle thing and it was tricky deciding whether to book a motel room without a 100% assurance of snow. Once the BoM predicted snow early, they never really swayed from that forecast so on Thursday we bit the bullet and booked rooms in Tenterfield Saturday night (I aimed for Stanthorpe but the town was already booked out) and Guyra Sunday night.
I was busy Sat arvo and eventually left at dusk for Tenterfield. We left early the next day for Guyra and experienced our exciting first bits of snow and snowfall somewhere S of Glen Innes.
Ben Lomond is a tiny town about 20kms N of Guyra. It's also 80m higher in elevation so we ducked in there first. The last time I experienced snow was the Rocky Mountains in the US in 2011. Here it was still a fun novelty to be kicking your shoes through fresh snow. Clearly, you don't see this every day back home in Queensland.
Considering the media coverage for this event, there was a mass exodus from Queensland which included a bunch of my storm chasing friends. The first one we ran into was Chrissy.
Chrissy suggested there was more on the ground further S so we headed down the road a bit. There was.
It wasn't long before cars started streaming in.
It wasn't long before a few more of our friends showed up and the snow fights were on.
After word that the cafés in Guyra were overwhelmed we trekked back to Glen Innes for lunch. There were similar problems there too but we did secure a great meal at one of the pubs without incident.
We left most of our friends who were either staying in Glen Innes as they couldn't get a room in Guyra, or heading back to Brisbane due to work tomorrow.
There were patches but we hadn't seen a lot of snow actually falling from the sky. However, it was clear from the forecast that this would change later this afternoon into tonight and in the early hours. Around 4pm it started snowing more seriously in Guyra.
We had already seen a decent amount of snow generally but the forecast had even more coming with heavier falls due overnight and into the morning. Considering many tourists had to return to Brisbane for work tomorrow, we felt privileged to be part of the few left to see it.
During the night I woke a few times and peeked out the window. At 2am Monday morning I snuck outside barefoot and took several steps before I realised I was walking through a layer of snow. The iPhone couldn't manage focus but I took a shot anyway.
I wondered if agreeing to an ABC radio interview at 5:50am was such a good idea. Drew was up at 5:20am so I followed suit, wondering what await us outside. We weren't disappointed. A thick layer of snow blanketed everything.
The covering was much thicker than I expected and it was easy to just wander about slowly taking it all in.
We eventually headed into town for coffee and a feed but I couldn't stop staring.
As the sun rose, I expected the snow to slowly start melting, but it started falling heavier than ever.
With no plan we decided to just drive around a bit and see what we could see. The town looked beautiful blanketed in fresh snow.
We eventually learned that the New England Hwy was closed N and S between Glen Innes and Bendemeer due to snow and ice, cutting our access home. We were aware of this possibility and figured it would reopen at some point later today. As we checked out of our motel, the manager was convinced we'd be trapped here another night and offered to hold our room at no cost. He wasn't likely to get any bookings today considering no-one could get in. We continued to drive around, regularly frequenting pubs and cafés, not knowing whether we'd eventually leave or be stuck here.
The snow had stopped falling for a couple of hours and was obviously melting. At 1pm we spoke with the attendant at the road block for an update. He told us the police on the scene had cleared the road for re-opening but it was yet to be signed off by the department. He suggested we could take a back road N out of town "at our own risk", which we did. If we got stopped at Glen Innes we would either find a way around or come back to Guyra.
We took it slow and steady, passing a couple of police cars who waved us on, which was a positive sign. It was strange to have the highway virtually to ourselves. About 5 mins before we arrived in Glen Innes a steady stream of south bound cars appeared, suggesting the road had re-opened. We took a punt on the road and it seems we had timed it perfectly as we proceeded through Glen Innes without incident.
I picked up my car at Tenterfield and continued home, stopping near Warwick for a spectacular sunset.