Thousands of western Sydney residents have been told to evacuate amid rising floodwaters as a one-in-25-year storm continues to wreak havoc on the east coast.
The heavy rain kept falling overnight and into Sunday morning as rivers across NSW and near Sydney overflowed.
An evacuation order has been issued for Picton in southwest Sydney after the Warragamba dam started spilling over on Saturday afternoon, causing river levels to rise along 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’.
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.
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
Taree is in the grip of a flood rivalling its worst on record 92 years ago as parts of the town have flooded (pictured)
Port Macquarie is now almost underwater as the town is lashed with a huge downpour of rain
The Bureau of Meteorology described the weather situation as ‘volatile, dangerous and dynamic’. Pictured: A flood is seen at Parramatta wharf in Sydney
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 were also advised to evacuate because of the risk of flooding along the Bellinger River.
Evacuation centres were established at Richmond and Bellingen, adding to several others opened in the Mid North Coast and Hunter regions.
The Bureau of Meteorology 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,’ BOM’s senior climatologist Agata Imielska said.
‘So for Sydney, we are still expecting a wet day tomorrow but today is really the bigger of the two.’
Major flooding is occurring along the Hawkesbury River at North Richmond where the river level is rising.
NSW SES is directing people within Northern end of low lying areas of Agnes Banks to evacuate the high danger area using the Castlereagh Road Evacuation Route.
Moderate flooding continues along the Colo River, with further rises to the major flood level possible.
Heavy rain and flooding has trigger evacuations on the New South Wales mid coast with over 120mm rain expected for Sydney and residents urged to stay at home
Sydney’s Warragamba Dam (pictured) has spilled over which could cause chaos for many western suburbs
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.
Farmers near the Colo River in the Blue Mountains were also told to be on alert for flooding and be ready to move livestock and equipment.
The heavy rain is expected to keep falling until Wednesday morning and people across the state are on high alert for rising floodwaters.
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.
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.
Many areas across eastern NSW recorded more than 100mm of rain over the past 24 hours, particularly in the Blue Mountains. Picton received 159mm and Oakdale recorded 139mm.
A severe weather warning for intense rainfall and flooding remains in place covering the majority of the NSW population.
The Bureau of Meteorology has issued flood warnings for more than a dozen rivers across the state.
‘It’s a very dynamic and evolving flood situation,’ BOM national flood services manager Justin Robinson said.
BOM says greater Sydney, the Mid North Coast and Central Tablelands areas will see more heavy rain on Sunday.
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.
Emergency crews kept working through the night, having already made more than 500 floodwater rescues.
The weather band is moving down from the Kimberley and will reach eastern NSW from Monday night, when it will ‘link up’ with the slow-moving coastal trough that is causing the flooding in NSW.
Nine evacuation centres have opened in NSW to cope with the influx of those left homeless by the crisis – seven on the mid-north coast and two in the Hunter region.
The Bureau of Metereology warned heavy rainfall – that will likely lead to flash flooding – is expected for the Northern Rivers, Mid North Coast, Hunter, Sydney Metropolitan, Illawarra, and Central Tablelands districts.
EVACUATION ORDERS AND WARNINGS FOR NSW
– Hawkesbury River at Grono’s Point
– Hawkesbury River at Pitt Town Bottoms
– Low lying parts of North Richmond
– Low lying areas of Central Wingham
– Taree Estate, Dumaresq Island and Cundletown
– Low lying areas of Laurieton and North Haven and Dunbogan
– Low lying properties of Bulahdelah
– Low lying properties in Kings Point and Macksville CBD
– Low lying areas of Wauchope and Rawdon Island
– Low lying properties in Kempsey CBD
– Low lying properties on the Lower Macleay
– Low lying properties in Port Macquarie
– Hawkesbury River at low lying areas of Freemans Reach
– Hawkesbury River at Cornwallis
– Picton CBD
– Gloucester River at Gloucester and Manning River at Wingham
– Low Lying areas in North Macksville
NSW STATE EMERGENCY SERVICE
Parts of Port Macquarie and several nearby towns have flooded been flooded as torrential rain and flooding is expected to continue until mid-next week
In some areas, heavy rain and flooding may be life-threatening and the next six to 12 hours will see roads likely cut off by water and see an increased risk of landslips.
Later in the evening suburbs near the swollen Hawkesbury River – Pitt Town Bottoms, low lying parts of North Richmond, Grono’s Point and Cornwallis – were also subject to an evacuation warning.
For NSW residents not in immediate danger, Premier Gladys Berejiklian urged them to restrict their movements and heed all warnings.
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.
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
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.
Houses are destroyed after flooding following heavy rainfall in Tinonee, New South Wales
A car is left stuck in raging floodwater at the Audley Weir in the Royal National Park south of Sydney
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.
The Colo River at Putty Road is expected to reach the major flood level of 10.70m on Sunday afternoon.
‘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.
River systems on the mid-north coast that have already flooded communities are expected to cop more rain on Saturday night and on Sunday, as Sydney’s river systems swell dramatically.
The Federal Government said the wild weather will affect the vaccine delivery of phase 1b to over 6.1million Australians in Sydney and across regional NSW.
The federal government said they were urgently working with doctors administering the vaccine to restore the supply of doses.
‘The Department of Health is working directly with GPs on these issues and we ask for the public’s patience and understanding with these unforeseen supply delays,’ a government spokesperson said.
A ‘mini-tornado’ that ripped through Chester Hill damaged the roofs of houses
A young couple’s home was seen floating down the Manning River in Taree in startling footage
‘The Department of Health is working with logistics companies and doctors to determine when delivers of the vaccines can be received due to heavy rainfall and flooding.’
The weather bureau warned of intense rainfall ‘potentially leading to life-threatening flash flooding’ and damaging winds averaging 60-70km/h with gusts exceeding 90km/h.
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.
A car is left stuck in raging floodwater at the Audley Weir in the Royal National Park south of Sydney
Floodwaters in Port Macquarie are seen as residents are told to evacuate after a freak weather event (pictured on Saturday)
The Hastings River flooding in Port Macquarie, NSW is pictured on Saturday morning – as millions brace for a weekend of endless wild weather
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)