Extreme, slow-moving floods in eastern Australia
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More rain is expected to hit already flood-devastated areas of NSW, with fears 15,000 residents across the state could be forced to evacuate today as two major weather fronts collide.
Residents along the Colo River in the NSW Central Tablelands have been told to “prepare to evacuate” by helicopter and boat as “extremely high” record floods threatened the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment.
The damaging weather and flooding has caused a number of roads and schools across the state to close today, with authorities warning the next 24 hours will be “critical” as heavy rain and wild weather is set to intensify today.
Follow the live updates below.
What you need to know today
There are multiple weather warnings, evacuation orders and road and school closures in place as rain continues to lash parts of NSW.
Here is everything you need to know this morning:
- Evacuation orders are in place for 18,000 residents. You can find the latest information on the SES page.
- Severe weather warnings are in place for the Northern Rivers, Mid North Coast, Hunter, Metropolitan, Illawarra, South Coast, Central Tablelands, Southern Tablelands, North West Slopes and Plains, Snowy Mountains, ACT, Northern Tablelands and parts of Central West Slopes and Plains, South West Slopes and Upper Western Forecast Districts.
- Flood warnings are in place for Orara River, Bellinger River, Nambucca River, Macleay River, Hastings River, Camden Haven River, Manning and Gloucester Rivers, Myall River, Paterson and Williams Rivers, Hunter River and Wollombi Brook, Tuggerah Lake, Hawkesbury Nepean Rivers, Deua River, Macquarie River to Bathurst, Snowy River and Paroo River.
- A full list of road and rail closures across NSW can be found here.
- A full list of school closures across the state can be found here.
More coverage HERE
Sydney’s Warragamba Dam has reached capacity and is spilling over, with other dams also expected to overflow.
Authorities have issued an evacuation order for the town of Picton south of the dam after the spill and were closely monitoring flood-prone areas of western Sydney.
“As a result of rising flood waters, people within the Picton CBD should prepare to evacuate,” the NSW SES said.
“Residents should monitor the situation and be prepared to evacuate when instructed to do so.
“A flood evacuation order will be issued by the NSW SES if evacuation is required.”
The dam, which provides much of the drinking water for Sydney, began spilling over Saturday afternoon in what experts expected to be the first significant overflow of the reservoir since 1990, although there have been smaller breaches more recently.
“We are in uncharted territory,” warned Ian Wright, a water expert at Western Sydney University, who said the rapid urbanisation of the western Sydney area around the Warragamba Dam since 1990 meant its spillover could no longer be reabsorbed by surrounding bushland.
“The urban development adds hard, impervious surfaces, and drainage infrastructure. In heavy rain, this can rapidly generate high-velocity floodwaters,” Wright tweeted.
The dam had been at 99.2 per cent capacity on Saturday and before heavy rainfall on Saturday and Sunday.
WaterNSW media adviser Benjamin Ansell told news.com.au that the dam began spilling about 3pm.
Footage posted on social media shows water being released.
“With heavy rainfall persisting, we are also expecting to see spills at Nepean, Cataract, Cordeaux and Avon dams,” WaterNSW said on its Twitter account.
This is international coverage from 24 hours ago
Thousands evacuate as Sydney sees worst floods in decades
Torrential downpours lashed Australia’s east Monday, forcing thousands to flee the worst flooding in decades and pushing communities already battling drought, bushfires, and the coronavirus pandemic to “breaking point”.
Aerial images from hard-hit areas showed the flood consuming rows of houses, with only their roofs above the water.
As some coastal communities received three months worth of rain in a few hours, emergency services said they rescued hundreds from floodwaters and fielded more than 8,800 calls for help.
In some areas, emergency workers travelled inland on “Surf Lifesaving” ocean rescue boats to reach stranded people.
“The water is still rising,” said Jo Dunstan, who owns a florist shop in the outer Sydney suburb of Windsor, as she watched debris-littered stormwater race past neighbouring homes.
“When you have been through three or four incidents that are life-changing on top of each other, it can make you feel like you are at breaking point,” said New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
“I don’t know any time in a state history where we have had these extreme weather conditions in such quick succession in the middle of a pandemic.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose conservative government has been accused of dragging its feet on climate action, said Australia was “being tested once again” by a “terrible event”.
He told parliament that Australia’s defence force was expected to be called in to assist with the clean-up and recovery.
New South Wales’s Mid North Coast has been particularly badly affected, with Berejiklian declaring the region had been struck by a “one in 100 year” disaster.
In Sydney’s vast Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley, swollen rivers were at levels not seen since 1990, after the Warragamba Dam, the city’s main drinking water source, spilled over Saturday.
Around 500 gigalitres of water were drained from the dam — roughly equivalent to 200,000 Olympic size swimming pools or the total volume of water in Sydney Harbour.
Residents in some affected areas were allowed to return to their homes Monday after waters receded, but others were placed on high alert as floods moved toward their regions.
Education authorities said more than 200 schools were closed, including some that were damaged in the floods.
Andrew Hall, CEO of the Insurance Council of Australia, said it was too early to understand the extent of destruction and to “estimate the insurance damage bill”.
– ‘A dangerous situation’ –
The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast “treacherous” conditions Monday before the wild weather eases later in the week.
Flood operations manager Justin Robinson warned the rain was expected to cause flooding in previously unaffected areas as well as “renewed flooding in many of those communities that have already been impacted”.
“It is quite a dangerous situation that New South Wales is currently facing,” he said.
Rainfall records were expected to keep tumbling in the coming days as the deluge spreads into the state’s northwest, and further north into Queensland state where weather warnings were also issued.
Flash flooding occurred at the Gold Coast — almost 10 hours’ drive from Sydney — as the tourist hotspot was drenched.
Health officials have said the rain and floods will delay the already halting rollout of coronavirus vaccines in Sydney and surrounding areas.