Wild and stormy weather has hit Taranaki after blowing in from the south where a cold snap blanketed the South Island's alpine country in snow overnight. MetService says 4500 lightning strikes lit up the Taranaki sky within an hour early this morning as the storms knocked out power to more than 12,000 customers in the district.Severe winds with gusts up to 110km/h have been forecast to continue in the area into this afternoon as the front moves north and east to hit most of the country. Rain was already lashing Taranaki, Wellington and Taupo as of 8.30am, according to the MetService radar. hunderstorms with wind gusts that could potentially damage trees, power lines and unsecured structures are forecast to hit on a broad front from Wellington through Hawke's Bay and Auckland into Northland. Overnight, a blanket of more than 75cm of snow fell in much of the Canterbury plains and Mackenzie High Country, sending temperatures plummeting. Highs of just 9C are expected in Christchurch and Dunedin, while snow and a frigid 8C is forecast for Queenstown.