People in flood-hit areas of New South Wales have been told to leave their homes in the middle of the night as the extreme rain event in the state continues.
Heavy rains continued to fall through the night and into Sunday morning as rivers in New South Wales and near Sydney overflowed or threatened to flood.
The Warragamba Dam overflowed around 3pm on Saturday and daily rainfall records for parts of the north coast in March were broken by more than 100mm.
Residents in the Pitt Town Bottoms, Cornwallis and North Richmond areas west of Sydney were told to evacuate in the early hours when the Hawkesbury River began to flood.
The State Emergency Service issued several orders telling people in these areas to take pets and essential items and stay with family or friends, or to go to an evacuation center.
“If you stay in the area, you can be trapped without electricity, water and other essential services,” the SES said in the evacuation orders.
Residents of Bellingen and people in a tourist park were also advised to evacuate due to the risk of flooding along the Bellinger River.
Evacuation centers were established in Richmond and Bellingen, in addition to several others that were opened on the central north coast and in the Hunter regions.
Major flooding occurred along the Hawkesbury River in North Richmond on Sunday morning, where the river level was rising.
NSW SES was instructing people within the northern end of the Agnes Banks low-lying areas to evacuate the high-danger area using the Castlereagh Road evacuation route.
Moderate flooding continued along the Colo River, with higher increases up to the highest possible flood level.
Floods were also expected along the Nepean River and the SES urged people in low-lying areas to protect their homes by placing sandbags on doors and cleaning drains.
Farmers near the Colo River in the Blue Mountains were also told to be on alert for floods and ready to move livestock and equipment.
Sydney’s main water source, the Warragamba Dam, began to overflow on Saturday afternoon, causing river levels to rise along the Nepean and Hawkesbury rivers.
As a result of the dam spill, the Bureau of Meteorology issued significant flood warnings in western Sydney, including in Penrith, North Richmond, Wallacia and Sackville, areas where there had been a sudden increase in urban development.
Water scientists weren’t sure how increased pavement and hard surfaces would affect rising river flows, as much of the area was mostly shrubbery when the dam was substantially more recently spilled in 1990.
Heavy rains are expected to continue falling through Wednesday morning and people across the state are on high alert for rising waters.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said weather models predicted that there could be a one-in-25-year rain event.
“This will be an extreme and deeply rooted weather event,” he told reporters on Saturday.
“It is not going to be an easy week for us.
“None of us are out of the woods as the storm front moves south.”
The prime minister urged residents of New South Wales who were not in immediate danger to restrict their movements and heed warnings.
Many areas in eastern New South Wales recorded more than 100mm of rain in the past 24 hours, particularly in the Blue Mountains. Picton received 159mm and Oakdale clocked 139mm.
A severe weather warning for heavy rain and flooding remained in place Sunday morning, covering the majority of the population of New South Wales.
The Bureau of Meteorology has issued flood warnings for more than a dozen rivers throughout the state.
“It’s a very dynamic and evolving flood situation,” said BOM’s manager of national flood services, Justin Robinson.
BoM says the Sydney metropolitan area, North Shore and Central Tablelands would see more heavy rain on Sunday.
Parts of Port Macquarie and nearby towns have flooded and further south, Taree is experiencing a flood that rivals the worst on record nearly 100 years ago.
Emergency crews continued to work through the night, having already carried out more than 500 flood rescues.
A bodyboarder in his 60s disappeared off the coast of Coffs Harbor on Saturday afternoon and teams will resume the search on Sunday morning.
High winds have also caused damage, with a small tornado ripping through Chester Hill High School in western Sydney.
Rain and bad weather are caused by a low-pressure coastal trough combined with a strong high-pressure system in the south.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the scenes in New South Wales were “absolutely heartbreaking” and that the government was ready to help.
The federal government has announced financial assistance for more than a dozen areas of local government.
The launch of the Covid-19 vaccine in Sydney and many parts of New South Wales has been delayed due to extreme weather, the Health Department said.
The Public Information and Consultation Center provides information on severe weather at any time of the day at 1800 227 228. For emergency help in the event of flooding, call SES at 132 500.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism