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All eyes are on the skies – and the level of Lake Wakatipu.
As of 7am today, the lake was at 311.171metres above sea level (msl) – that’s just above the first “high” alert level of 310.8msl.
Council corporate services boss Meaghan Miller says it’s still to reach its peak – that’s predicted to happen tomorrow.
“At this stage we’re not going to be in the wars, but we’re not out of the woods either.”
But, she’s calling for calm and says current forecasting shows even at that peak, Lake Wakatipu will still be about a metre off the record 1999 level.
“As the lake creeps forward it is confronting and I think people’s minds do go back to the ’99 floods.
“In ’99 we did not have the detailed scientific forecasting and modelling that we now have in place through the Otago Regional Council – and that enables us to model these events with some real confidence.”
The council’s bracing itself to see “very full lakes” and flooding of low-lying areas including Queenstown Bay, the Kingston and Glenorchy foreshores, reserves and tracks.
Miller says that may be the status quo for days, possibly weeks.
Harbourmaster Marty Black said this afternoon people should still not be going out onto lakes and rivers in the area.
“We recommend everyone stays off the rivers, in particular the Mata-Au Clutha River which is at High-Level Alert. We are continuing to monitor the flow rates and if necessary will explicitly prohibit any activity on these waterways, such as the Clutha and Kawarau,” Mr Black said.
People are also asked to avoid any boating activity on the lakes, and the jetties at Lake Wanaka have been closed. There is significant risk due to the possibility of floating debris and submerged structures, he said.
He asked owners of kayaks and small craft located anywhere on the Wanaka and Wakatipu lakefronts retrieve these as soon as possible, whether or not they are tethered.
There aren’t plans yet to put wave mitigation around Lake Wakatipu, but there might be some temporary speed restrictions around the foreshore as “slop” hits the roads, to minimise damage to retail premises.
Sandbags will also likely be made available in Queenstown, Kingston and Glenorchy today for any businesses wanting to take proactive measures.
MetService said both Wānaka and Queenstown Airports have surpassed their average December rainfall in the first five days of the month.
Meanwhile, Wakatipu High School spokeswoman Karla Dawson confirmed the school’s annual Branches Camp was called off yesterday afternoon – it’s just the third time in its 52-year history that’s happened.