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NSW floods: Schools closed, stay at home orders and new emergency zones named

Schools will be closed, employees encouraged to work from home and an additional 4,000 homes potentially evacuated overnight as New South Wales battens down the hatches and endures a once-in-a-century storm.

State Premier Gladys Berejiklian held an emergency conference on Sunday to discuss the crisis, begging residents to play it safe and reiterating how ‘serious and severe this weather is’. 

She said the NSW mid north coast, which was worst hit on Saturday and overnight, is enduring a once-in-a-century storm, while regions in western Sydney haven’t seen rainfall this severe in 50 years. 

‘We were hoping it would only be a one in 20-year event. It looks like it will actually be a one in 50-year event,’ Ms Berejiklian said of the conditions in the Hawkesbury valley on Sunday.  

Emergency services have now identified the Hawkesbury Valley and western Sydney as higher risk zones in the coming days. 

Ms Berejiklian anticipated 4,000 homes in the region could be evacuated in the coming days. 

‘It’s the sustained rainfall, the fact that weather event has settled in, it’s not moving,’ she said. 

‘We cannot underestimate the ferocity of these weather conditions. We have gone from extreme bushfire to extreme flood.’   

She also warned parents that schools in hard-hit regions will likely need to stay closed in the coming days, but said this would be assessed on a case-by-case basis. 

Schools on the mid north coast are most likely to be affected, but as conditions deteriorate along the Hawkesbury Valley and Nepean region, there will likely be closures in western Sydney too. 

Employees have been encouraged to find out if they can work from home in the coming days in an attempt to curb any unnecessary road travel and avoid an ‘inevitable fatality’.

David Elliott, the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, detailed 74 flood rescues which took place overnight – including many in which people had ‘unnecessarily’ put themselves in danger. 

‘Motorists need to know that, statistically, we’re moving inevitably closer to a fatality,’ he said. 

‘This is the wrong time of year to be taking risks… With the damage that’s been done across the road network a fatality is getting more and more likely.’   

Mr Elliott acknowledged weather conditions in New South Wales have swung from one extreme to the next in the last 18 months.

‘It’s just a reality of living in Australia,’ he said. 

The federal and state governments on Sunday morning announced 16 national disaster declarations from Coffs Harbour and Grafton areas in northern NSW into the west to Cessnock and Dungog, and to the Central Coast. 

The regions include Bellingen, Clarence Valley, Kempsey, Lake Macquarie City, Nambucca Valley, Port Macquarie-Hastings and Tenterfield. 

Relief funding can now start to be funnelled into local council areas for recovery efforts from the catastrophic rainfall. 

Ms Berejiklian said authorities are not expecting conditions to deteriorate further along the mid north coast, but residents are warned the rain has set in for at least the next five days. 

Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist Jonathan How said the main area of concern for the rest of the weekend was the Mid North Coast, with rain set to ramp up on Sunday afternoon. 

Parts of Port Macquarie and nearby towns have flooded and further south Taree is in the grip of a flood rivalling its worst on record nearly 100 years ago. 

 ‘And then we are also going to see heavy falls through Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains and down through the Illawarra as well,’ he told ABC News.

‘We are expecting generally 50-100mm, but some places could get as much as 200mm, and the weather warning has been extended, so it does reach all the way from Wollongong up to the Queensland border for heavy rainfall.  

‘We are really going to see conditions dangerous across western parts of Sydney.

‘We’ve seen the Hawkesbury River at Richmond tick over the major flood level and there is possible major flooding downstream.’      

This entire street near the Paterson river in Hinton, in the NSW Hunter region, is underwater

Yellow areas are subject to a Bureau of Meteorology severe weather warning of heavy rain and damaging winds for Sunday. The marked locations are subject to evacuation orders or warnings

Yellow areas are subject to a Bureau of Meteorology severe weather warning of heavy rain and damaging winds for Sunday. The marked locations are subject to evacuation orders or warnings

Port Macquarie is now almost underwater as the Mid North Coast town is lashed with torrential rain

Port Macquarie is now almost underwater as the Mid North Coast town is lashed with torrential rain

Many areas across eastern NSW recorded more than 100mm of rain over the past 24 hours, particularly in the Blue Mountains. Pictured: The Parramatta River in flood

Many areas across eastern NSW recorded more than 100mm of rain over the past 24 hours, particularly in the Blue Mountains. Pictured: The Parramatta River in flood

The Bureau of Meteorology described the weather situation as 'volatile, dangerous and dynamic'

The Bureau of Meteorology described the weather situation as ‘volatile, dangerous and dynamic’

Meanwhile, an evacuation order has been issued for Picton in southwest Sydney after the Warragamba Dam started spilling over on Saturday afternoon, causing water levels to rise in the Nepean and Hawkesbury rivers. 

‘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. 

‘Once floodwaters begin to rise in Stonequarry Creek you will see flooding of roads, sewerage lines and power may be lost, and properties to be inundated. If you remain in the area you may become trapped and it may be too dangerous for NSW SES to rescue you.’  

Natural disaster declared in the following regions:

 Armidale

Bellingen

Central Coast

Cessnock City Council

Clarence Valley

Coffs Harbour City

Dungog Shire

Kempsey

Lake Macquarie City

Maitland City

Mid-Coast

Nambucca Valley

Newcastle City

Port Macquarie-Hastings

Port Stephens

Tenterfield

   

 

Locals braved the rain on Sunday to watch the Hawkesbury River smash uprooted trees into the new Windsor bridge. 

Residents face an anxious wait ahead of the tide peaking in the Hawkesbury at about 2pm. 

Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist Agata Imielsk warned of ‘treacherous’ conditions to come and said four times the March monthly average will fall in NSW in just two days. 

‘For the communities out there, you have already experienced some really dangerous conditions and they are going to be treacherous yet again so keep a close eye on warnings,’ she said. 

Earlier, the Bureau described the weather situation as ‘volatile, dangerous and dynamic’. 

‘Even enough we are seeing the rainfall and rivers dropping down, we are expecting that to pick back up, so that will remain another watch point in the next 24 hours,’ Ms Imielsk said.  

‘So for Sydney, we are still expecting a wet day tomorrow but today is really the bigger of the two.’     

Many areas across eastern NSW recorded more than 100mm of rain over the past 24 hours, including the Sydney CBD. Picton received 159mm and Oakdale recorded 139mm.

More than 700mm of rain has fallen on Kendall, 35km southwest of Port Macquarie, since Thursday.    

The wild weather caused devastation to a home on Shortland Esplanade near the Newcastle ocean baths with the property teetering on the edge after a landslide hit the area.  

The heavy rain is expected to keep falling until Wednesday morning and people across the state are on high alert for rising floodwaters. Pictured: Taree on the Mid North Coast

The heavy rain is expected to keep falling until Wednesday morning and people across the state are on high alert for rising floodwaters. Pictured: Taree on the Mid North Coast

A house is seen after a landslip took out some of its foundations, forcing the road to be closed on Shortland esplanade in Newcastle on Sunday

A house is seen after a landslip took out some of its foundations, forcing the road to be closed on Shortland esplanade in Newcastle on Sunday

Parts of Port Macquarie (pictured) and nearby towns have flooded and further south Taree is in the grip of a flood rivalling its worst on record nearly 100 years ago

Parts of Port Macquarie (pictured) and nearby towns have flooded and further south Taree is in the grip of a flood rivalling its worst on record nearly 100 years ago

Residents in the Pitt Town Bottoms, Cornwallis and North Richmond areas west of Sydney were also told to evacuate in the dead of night as the Hawkesbury River began to flood. 

The State Emergency Service issued several orders telling people in these areas to take pets and essential items with them and stay with family or friends, or go at an evacuation centre.

‘If you remain in the area, you may become trapped without power, water and other essential services,’ the SES said in the evacuation orders. 

Bellingen residents and people at a tourist park in the Mid North Coast town were also advised to evacuate because of the risk of flooding along the Bellingen River.

Evacuation centres were established at Richmond and Bellingen, adding to several others opened in the Mid North Coast and Hunter regions. 

Taree is in the grip of a flood rivalling its worst on record 92 years ago as parts of the town have flooded (pictured)

Taree is in the grip of a flood rivalling its worst on record 92 years ago as parts of the town have flooded (pictured) 

Heavy rain and flooding has triggered evacuations on the New South Wales mid coast with over 120mm rain expected for Sydney

Heavy rain and flooding has triggered evacuations on the New South Wales mid coast with over 120mm rain expected for Sydney 

Rainfall recordings  

Darkes Forest — 107 mm

Oakdale — 105 mm

Sydney Airport — 104 mm

Sydney Observatory Hill — 103 mm

Peakhurst Golf Club — 100 mm

Picton (Cedar Ck) — 99 mm

Marrickville Golf Club — 98 mm

Moderate flooding continues along the Colo River, with the river at Putty Road is expected to reach the major flood level of 10.70m on Sunday afternoon. 

Flooding was also expected along the Nepean River and the SES urged people in low-lying areas to protect their homes by sandbagging doorways and clearing drains.   

The Nepean River at Menangle Bridge is expected to reach 7.60m on Sunday with water levels to also reach moderate flood levels at Wallacia Weir.    

‘It’s a very dynamic and evolving flood situation and we could see some very deep and rapidly responding rivers with very high levels,’ BOM national flood services manager Justin Robinson said. 

 SES Deputy Commissioner Daniel Austin said the service was dealing with downed trees, power outages, clearing of debris and damage to houses.

‘Whilst a couple of areas have seen some receding flood waters overnight and into this morning, that heavy rainfall returning to those locations today will likely lead to additional peaks on those river systems,’ Mr Austin told ABC TV.

‘We’re planning well beyond Easter for our own operations … just because the rain may stop on Thursday, the rivers naturally don’t go back to their normal state and then there’s going to be an extended recovery period.’  

Emergency crews kept working through the night, having already made more than 500 floodwater rescues. 

Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said the State Emergency Service’s 500 flood rescues was ‘completely unacceptable’.

‘That’s 500 crews that have put their lives at risk because people have not heeded the warnings,’ he said.         

Flood warnings as of 8am Sunday 

Minor to Moderate Flood Warning for the Bellinger River

Minor to Moderate Flood Warning for the Macleay River

Minor to Moderate Flood Warning for the Hastings River

Moderate to Major Flood Warning for the Gloucester and Manning Rivers

Minor to Moderate Flood Warning for the Hunter River and Wollombi Brook

Moderate to Major Flood Warning for the Hawkesbury, Nepean and Colo Rivers

Minor Flood Warning for the Deua River

Minor Flood Warning for the Tuggerah Lake

Moderate Flood Warning for the Orara River

Minor Flood Warning for the Paroo River (NSW)

Minor to Moderate Flood Warning for the Paterson and Williams Rivers

Minor Flood Warning for the Nambucca River

Minor Flood Warning for the Camden Haven River

Minor Flood Warning for the Myall River 

Houses are destroyed after flooding following heavy rainfall in Tinonee, New South Wales

Houses are destroyed after flooding following heavy rainfall in Tinonee, New South Wales

Residents looking at trucks stuck in a flooded road, following heavy rains in Taree

Residents looking at trucks stuck in a flooded road, following heavy rains in Taree

After three days of heavy rain, the Parramatta River (pictured)u00A0 spilled over on Saturday

After three days of heavy rain, the Parramatta River (pictured)  spilled over on Saturday

 A bodyboarder in his 60s went missing off the coast of Coffs Harbour on Saturday afternoon and crews will resume the search on Sunday morning. 

A group of students at Kendall Public School on the state’s mid-north coast spent Friday night in the campus’ library after roads cut rain prevented the children getting home.  

Thirteen staff stayed with the children, when it was confirmed on Friday that flooded roads meant some families wouldn’t be able to collect the children. 

The school confirmed late on Saturday that all stranded students had made it home safely after the unexpected sleepover. 

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said weather modelling predicted it could be a one-in-25-year rain event.

‘This will be a deep-seated, extreme weather event,’ she told reporters.

‘It’s not going to be an easy week for us. None of us are out of the woods while the storm front is moving south.’

The Premier urged NSW residents who weren’t in immediate danger to restrict their movements and heed the warnings. 

Emergency crews kept working through the night, having already made more than 500 floodwater rescues. Pictured: Taree in NSW

Emergency crews kept working through the night, having already made more than 500 floodwater rescues. Pictured: Taree in NSW 

A 'mini-tornado' that ripped through Chester Hill in western Sydney on Saturday damaged the roofs of houses

A ‘mini-tornado’ that ripped through Chester Hill in western Sydney on Saturday damaged the roofs of houses 

A car is left stuck in raging floodwater at the Audley Weir in the Royal National Park south of Sydney

A car is left stuck in raging floodwater at the Audley Weir in the Royal National Park south of Sydney

 In Katoomba, in the upper Blue Mountains, two bushwalkers were cut off by floodwaters on the Six Foot Track with NSW Ambulance saying they were ‘extremely fortunate’ to have survived.

The rescue required four crews and conditions were difficult with some roads impassable because of flooding.    

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the scenes across NSW were ‘absolutely heart-breaking’ and the government was ready to assist.

The federal government has announced financial assistance for more than a dozen local government areas.

Floodwaters in Port Macquarie are seen as residents are told to evacuate (pictured on Saturday)

Floodwaters in Port Macquarie are seen as residents are told to evacuate (pictured on Saturday)

Locals are seen having a drink at a pub despite the venue being completely flooded by the wild weather (pictured pub in Telegraph Point, northern NSW)

Locals are seen having a drink at a pub despite the venue being completely flooded by the wild weather (pictured pub in Telegraph Point, northern NSW)

In Katoomba, in the upper Blue Mountains, two bushwalkers were cut off by floodwaters on the Six Foot Track with NSW Ambulance saying they were ‘extremely fortunate’ to have survived.

The rescue required four crews and conditions were difficult with some roads impassable because of flooding.   

Sydney’s Warragamba Dam spills over 

 Residents in the Warragamba Dam catchment are on high alert and may have to evacuate as the primary reservoir of water supply for Sydney overflows.

The heritage-listed Warragamba Dam, located about 70km from central Sydney, started spilling mid-afternoon on Saturday, as rain continues to batter parts of NSW.

The volume of water is expected to increase into Sunday as rainfall and flooding continues, Water NSW said.

Residents in the suburb of Picton have been urged to evacuate their homes after the Waragamba Dam overflowed on Saturday

Residents in the suburb of Picton have been urged to evacuate their homes after the Waragamba Dam overflowed on Saturday  

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Saturday afternoon she had been briefed on the dam situation ‘in relation to a potential for a one-in-five-year, one-in-10-year, or one-in-20-year event’.

‘All three scenarios being planned for,’ she said.

She warned residents in the catchment area, as well as those in the mid-north coast, the Hunter, central coast and metropolitan Sydney to be on high alert and ready to evacuate.

Flood expert Jamie Pittock is less concerned about the Warragamba Dam spilling as he is about tributary rivers downstream from it, such as the Grose River, overflowing and flooding parts of western Sydney.

‘There are around 5,000 houses (in western Sydney) that lie below the one-in-100-year flood return interval,’ the Australia National University professor told AAP.

Most housing developments around the world are not allowed to be built in a one-in-100-year area, but successive NSW governments have allowed the irresponsible building of housing in these low-lying locations, Prof Pittock said.

‘It’s always worrying when there’s a flood in western Sydney because it’s one of the most dangerous places in Australia for floods.’

Prof Pittock said he was most concerned about Penrith, Richmond and Windsor.

Bureau of Meteorology national flood services manager Justin Robinson said a spill at Warragamba Dam could lead to minor flooding in Sydney’s west, specifically at Penrith and North Richmond later on Saturday.

‘It’s a very dynamic and evolving flood situation and we could see some very deep and rapid responding rivers with very high levels,’ he said on Saturday.

Other dams such as Nepean, Cataract, Cordeaux and Avon are also expected to reach capacity and begin spilling on Saturday afternoon, Water NSW said.

The mayor of Wollondilly Shire Council, the local government area in which Warragamba Dam is located, told AAP he was concerned about flooding in lower areas.

Robert Khan cannot remember the dam spilling over in his nearly 40 years of living in the area and said businesses on the main street of Picton were currently sandbagging their stores.

‘We’ve had drought, bushfires and floods. I know it’s mother nature but how much can a local business take?’ he said.

The dam spill has occurred amid the NSW government’s controversial plans to raise the dam wall by at least 14 metres to potentially hold back additional water in the Blue Mountains. 

A young couple's home was seen floating down the Manning River in Taree in startling footage

A young couple’s home was seen floating down the Manning River in Taree in startling footage

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the scenes across NSW were ‘absolutely heart-breaking’ and the government was ready to assist.

The federal government has announced financial assistance for more than a dozen local government areas.

Theu00A0Hastings River in Port Macquarie, NSW is pictured on Saturday morning - as millions brace for a weekend of endless wild weather

The Hastings River in Port Macquarie, NSW is pictured on Saturday morning – as millions brace for a weekend of endless wild weather

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