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NSW weather: Conditions expected to ease after flash flooding cut roads and prompted rescues

Saturday March 18, 2017 - 22:10 EDT
ABC licensed image
Waterfalls hit the road at Dorrigo National Park in NSW. - ABC licensed

Despite more rain and possible thunderstorms approaching parts of New South Wales, severe conditions are expected to ease after a busy start to the weekend for emergency services.

More than 20 flood rescues were carried out in the state's north on Saturday, with heavy rainfall in the region causing flash flooding and multiple road closures.

Caroline Ortel from the Clarence-Nambucca State Emergency Service (SES) said the rescues had been the result of people ignoring flood warnings.

"We've had several flood rescues, all of them based on people driving into floodwaters," she said.

"So we say it over and over again, that people shouldn't drive walk or play in floodwater. If it's flooded, forget it," she said.

The SES said a young family were rescued after they were surrounded by floodwater in the Bungalwalbin-Tabbimobile area between the Pacific Highway and the coast.

Ian Lecki from the Richmond Tweed SES said the mother, father and four-year-old child had to be winched to safety by a rescue helicopter.

"It was very hard to find them as they were about seven kilometres away from any road access. We have a lot of fog in the area so the helicopter had a lot of difficulty finding them and our initial co-ordinates [made it] quite a difficult rescue," he said.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said it would continue to monitor rivers including the Bellinger, Hastings, Colo, Orara, Severn, Williams and Coffs Creek for flooding overnight.

Up to 205 millimetres was observed in 24 hours on the Bellinger River, and 200mm in the same period over the Hastings. Further heavy rain has been forecast across the Mid North Coast, northern tablelands and the Hunter region for Saturday night.

BOM's Rob Taggart said conditions were expected to ease by Sunday.

"We've got continued falls right along the eastern seaboard but we are looking at an easing trend," he said.

"We are expecting thunderstorms right throughout the state and those storms could give heavy falls along the north coast, central tablelands and northern inland."

for large parts of NSW.

The SES said it had brought in extra teams that had been kept busy on Friday night responding to reports of leaking roofs and requests for sandbags.

The organisation has had 2,700 calls for help across NSW since Friday.

NSW SES Commissioner Mark Smethurst said he had 180 crews on standby.

"[All rivers with active flood watches] are likely to experience some increase in height. But our greatest concern is flash flooding," Mr Smethurst said.

The Pacific Highway has been re-opened in both directions between Grafton and Ballina.

Several vehicles were earlier stranded in flash flooding, and traffic on the M1 saw long hold-ups after the SES estimated up to 30 cars attempted to drive through floodwaters.

Andrew McPhee from the Richmond Tweed SES said a massive rescue effort was required because of water across the highway at New Italy.

"[There were a] large number of vehicles who have been stopped in water on the road, I stress it is slow-moving water there, so my understanding is NSW police were able to extract those drivers and passengers from those vehicles," he said.

Commissioner Smethurst said the which claimed the life of 11-year-old Ryan Teasdale in Wollongong.

"We had 40 flood rescues down in the Illawarra over the last 24 to 48 hours and a lot of that occurred in a very small period of time, when we had flash flooding," he said.

"My message to everybody is stay out of those waters, particularly if you're driving."


© ABC 2017

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