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Levee holds against Grafton's record flood

Tuesday January 29, 2013 - 15:00 EDT

Grafton residents are breathing a sigh of relief as the town's flood levee appears to be holding against the swollen Clarence River.

An evacuation order was given for some parts of the town, on the New South Wales north coast.

More than 2,000 people living in Dovedale and North Meadow were told to leave this morning.

The Bureau of Meteorology says river levels at Grafton peaked near 8.08 metres at about 11:00am, with record major flooding.

Sam Colwell, from the State Emergency Service, says the river is just below the levee and looking steady.

She says fingers are crossed the barrier will hold.

"At this stage it looks like it's steady at just below the 8.1 metre," she said.

"It shouldn't really overtop if it sits around the 8.05 mark."

Clarence Mayor, Richie Williamson, says its the biggest flood Grafton has ever seen.

"The river still remains as we speak above eight metres, which is a record flood," he said.

"We have never seen a flood of that magnitude in Grafton.

"That flood peak is now making its way pretty quickly towards the towns of Ulmarra, Brushgrove, Cowper and Maclean."

Third generation grazier Trevor Wingfield lives in the upper reaches of the Clarence catchment and says he has never seen anything like the current flood.

He says he knew it was going to be big when he saw the river rise suddenly.

"We've got some old '54 photos and it's miles higher," he said.

"I'll tell you what happened from six o'clock to seven o'clock it rose six foot and then from seven o'clock to half past nine it rose 12 feet.

"I said 'let me put it over the wireless that we are going have a major flood in the Clarence and all the people below Copmanhurst get all their cattle out,' I said, 'it's on!'"

There are still 41,000 people isolated by floodwaters across northern New South Wales.

In Lismore 150 people were told to leave their homes last night.

Steve Pearce from the SES says the situation there is stable.

"We're just watching the Wilsons River to see whether the peak on the river increases," he said.


© ABC 2013

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