Fiordland Rivers at highest recorded levels - trampers being evacuated
Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication.
IntroductionDOC is currently evacuating trampers from the Milford and Routeburn Tracks in Fiordland National Park.
Date: 26 April 2010
The Department of Conservation (DOC) is currently evacuating trampers from the Milford and Routeburn Tracks in Fiordland National Park.
Continuous heavy rain in the region for the past three days has caused major flooding, washing out at least one bridge and compromising other structures. And it’s not showing any sign of stopping just yet. More rain is forecast for the area through to Tuesday.
One hundred and twenty trampers on the Milford Track have spent the last two nights safely inside huts but food is now running low and an evacuation operation is in progress. Trampers are being flown off the track by helicopter and at this stage are being taken to the head of Lake Te Anau where two Real Journeys vessels are waiting to transport them back to Te Anau Downs.
DOC programme manager Ross Kerr said the monitoring data coming in electronically for the Clinton and Arthur Rivers on the Milford Track, and Cleddau River in Milford Sound are ‘off the scale’.
"DOC staff are heading in to assess the conditions today," Mr Kerr said. "At this stage we have only been able to inspect one small bridge downstream of Mintaro Hut which has been washed away".
People in the area, especially hunters and trampers in the mountains, and river-users elsewhere, are advised to take care over the next few days. Also it is possible that structures could be compromised. The public are advised to take care until we have an opportunity to inspect structures to confirm they are safe.
The contractors on Mackinnon Pass who are currently building a new shelter are unaffected by the heavy rain.
- In the 3 days finishing at 8am today, Monday 26 April, 739mm of rain was recorded at Dumpling hut on the Milford Track, Fiordland National Park.
- The 24 hours leading up to 8am Sunday alone recorded 524mm
- During that period rainfall intensity averaged 25-30mm with a peak intensity of 40mm/hr sustained for 2 hours.
- More rain is forecast through to Tuesday (tomorrow) north of George Sound. The front appears to be slow moving.
- The rainfall and river levels are monitored electronically in both the Clinton and Arthur Rivers on the Milford Track, and the Cleddau River in Milford Sound.
- When the Arthur River (northern catchment of the Milford Track) level reaches 2.8m the track is closed. The level has been above this since 10am yesterday, remained above 3.5m since 2pm yesterday and has peaked off our graph at 4m. This means there would be widespread flooding in all low lying areas of the track.
- The Clinton River (on the southern catchment of the Milford Track) closure level is 1.8m; the level has been sustained at over 2m for the same period, since 10am Sunday.
- The huts are full with120 trampers on the track.
- Milford Track Guided Walks has already closed for the season so does not have trampers on the track.
- They are all in huts with hut wardens present and are safe.
- The track was closed yesterday (stopping further people going in) and those trampers have now spent 2 days at the same hut.
- The last trampers of the season were due to access the track today but it has been cancelled. People are receiving refunds.
- An evacuation is underway for the remaining people on the track. They will all be picked up by helicopter and flown to Glade Wharf where Real Journeys is sending 2 boats to collect them. They will be brought back to Te Anau by coach.
- Even the trampers at Clinton, only 1 hour walk in from the start of the track are not able to walk back to Glade Wharf due to the flooding.
- DOC are pulling staff in from other work to assess conditions. At this stage we have only been able to inspect one small bridge downstream of Mintaro Hut which has been washed away.
- The Routeburn Track has also been closed in part due to access to the Routeburn from Glenorchy being compromised.
- There are considerably less people on the track and they are staying put in the meantime. Hut wardens are present in the huts with them.
- The Kepler Track is open but it is likely there will be a lot of water down the Iris River valley.
- Visitor Assets Manager for DOC Te Anau recommends "No-one should be in a rush to go anywhere today. Just tide ho while we assess the state of the tracks and determine it’s safe. There is a very large amount of unknown as to the extent of the flooding and any resulting damage."
- NZTA advise that the Milford Road is closed.
- DOC staff are going in with the state highway maintenance contractors, Downer EDI Works, to check the Milford Road campsites and other structures along the road, e.g. Lake Marian, Chasm. People need to stay away from all structures until we have had an opportunity to confirm they are staff.
- DOC have been advised that whilst the Cleddau River rose to a level that triggered Emergency Response pagers the river has remained within it’s banks and no evacuation has been necessary.
- The river has dropped from a peak yesterday.
- The conditions appear to be worse on the Te Anau side of the Homer Tunnel.
Rainfall/Flooding recent history
- Fiordland experienced a large flooding event on 23 March 2010. In the period since then a further approx 1.2m of rain has fallen before this event. Another 739mm of rain on top of that is huge.
- The Fiordland region is used to considerable rain. The steep sided mountains result in rapid run off and therefore rise in rivers. Likewise when the rain stops the river levels typically recede relatively quickly.
- DOC always advise not to cross rivers if they are questionable, even something that is usually a dry side channel can become a death trap during heavy rain. People need to sit it out and wait for the rivers to drop.
- Some people have been able to drive out from there to Te Anau today but there is widespread surface flooding and South Mavora Lake is flooded over the access road.
- DOC staff are on there way in to check the other people who are still in there.
A number of hunters have been in picking up hunting licences. While we have few recorded in our intentions system there are likely to be a number out at various places in Fiordland and adjacent Conservation Areas.
- Hollyford Track likely to be flooded
- Wilmot Pass is alright and open.
Ph: +64 3 249 0228