NSW cleans up as floodwaters recedeMonday February 25, 2013 - 02:02 EDT
Thousands of people are still stranded across flood-stricken northern New South Wales, but residents in some areas have been given the all clear to return to their homes.
Evacuation orders were still in place for Kempsey on Sunday night, after the Macleay River earlier breached the town's levees and inundated parts of the CBD.
The weather bureau has issued flood warnings for 15 river systems from Sydney to the Queensland border.
But SES spokeswoman Becky Gollings says floodwaters are starting to recede and some residents have been allowed to return home.
"We've got some 20,000 people isolated by floodwater, they're expected to remain so for the next couple of days," she said.
"The good news is for Settlement Point and low-lying parts of Port Macquarie on the Hastings River on the mid-north coast - we've issued an all clear for that area, so residents are allowed to return."
The SES has received more than 5,000 calls for help across the state since wild weather started a few days ago.
Many of those came from Sydney and the Illawarra region, after , damaging homes and bringing down powerlines and trees.
Two people are confirmed dead as a result of the flooding, which was caused by a slow-moving low pressure system that made its way down the eastern coast.
During Sunday morning's flood peak in Port Macquarie, 10 businesses along Short Street were inundated by several centimetres of water.
Scores of homes in low-lying suburbs and along the Hastings River have been isolated.
Mayor Peter Besseling says the floods have caused some damage to infrastructure and to the car ferry which accesses the North Shore residential area.
"One of the cables from the ferry has let lose and the ferry has been moored somewhere where it wouldn't usually be moored," he said.
Further north at Kempsey, the Macleay River peaked lower than expected on Sunday afternoon.
It still breached the town's levee but the majority of businesses had been sandbagged and avoided flooding.
In Taree, the Manning River also peaked much lower than expected and has subsided.
At Clybucca, one father ignored police advice and braved the raging floodwaters in attempt to save his stranded family.
Jalcin Arisi says he thought the floodwaters were receding and tried to drive through in his ute, but the car stalled.
He climbed out the window and had to wade and swim through the waters before being rescued.
"Police advised me to wait til it calmed down. I said 'no, my family is in danger. I've got to get to my kids," he told the ABC.
Meanwhile, residents of Grafton have dealt with the second major flood to hit the town this year.
The Clarence River reached its expected peak of 6.3 metres, about two metres shy of the level it reached less than a month ago.
Although buildings were inundated in the town and road closures were expected, no evacuations had been necessary.
Properties are expected to be isolated elsewhere in the Clarence Valley as the flood moves downstream towards Yamba.
On Saturday, a man's body was .
Earlier, a 17-year-old boy was killed when he was swept into a stormwater drain at a golf course at Kew, south of Port Macquarie.
Trail of destruction
On Saturday night, hundreds of homes were damaged by a freak weather system that tore a path of destruction through parts of Sydney and the Illawarra region.
The Bureau of Meteorology says two heavy weather systems met in a narrow band along the east coast.
The result was heavy rain and winds gusting close to 100 kilometres per hour, causing major damage, but only in a handful of suburbs.
Narrellan in the south and Malabar in the south-east, as well as Kiama in the Illawarra, were hit hard.
Ms Gollings said the wind was the most destructive element as the storm has moved south.
"In Kiama, we saw three homes destroyed completely and about seven other homes that suffered significant damage," she said.
"Our volunteers have been quite busy in the field today, working on those jobs and trying to get them clear... thankfully though, the weather conditions have eased, which has made their job a little bit easier."
© ABC 2013
More breaking news
Further rain expected in the central west of New South Wales could see the Lachlan River at Forbes reach a higher peak, despite it already being inundated with the greatest water levels in 25 years.
Adelaide residents are preparing for heavy rain, high seas and strong winds forecast to hit later this week, in what the SES says could be one of the most significant weather events it has seen in South Australia.
Residents in South Australia should prepare now for dangerous weather during the second half of the week, beginning Wednesday.