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NSW weather: Forbes residents warned to evacuate as Lachlan River nears unexpectedly high peak

Sunday September 25, 2016 - 18:18 EST
ABC image
Rising flood waters over the causeway at Lake Forbes. - ABC

The flood-hit area of Forbes in central-western NSW is readying itself for the worst of a slow-moving flood, with the peak expected to hit after midnight.



Flooding has already affected more than 100 properties in the region.

The river is still rising and overnight is expected to peak at between 10.65 and 10.7 metres at the Forbes Iron Bridge gauge.

An evacuation order remains in place for Forbes and the State Emergency Service (SES) has urged residents to evacuate from various parts of the town, including the CBD and surrounding areas, as well as nearby town Condobolin.



SES Lachlan Region Controller Nichole Richardson said this flood event was unique.

"[The] waters are doing things differently to what we've seen in the past and we are monitoring it very closely with the other emergency services and the Forbes Shire Council," Ms Richardson said.

"At this stage we haven't seen the town cut and some of the roads that we would normally see [closed] are still open and people are able to move about.

"There are some local diversions in place."

She said recent flooding was exacerbating the situation.

"What we need to remember this time is that we only had a flood peak two weeks ago. We still have major flooding occurring downstream.



"So we've now got this second lot of water pushing through into that already major flood level.

"We are seeing some things happen differently so we're asking the community to monitor what is happening around them, make some safe decisions early."

The SES yesterday issued an evacuation order affecting about 1,000 residents and 246 properties in Forbes, and the Lachlan River has already reached 10.65 metres.

Residents have been warned the flooding could result in Forbes being split in two. The town was divided into two parts when the river reached 10.43 metres in 1990.

Some of those forced from their homes have spent the night in Forbes High School, which has been turned into an evacuation centre.

Numerous roads in the area surrounding Forbes, including the Newell Highway between Forbes and West Wyalong, have been closed due to the rising flood waters.

Water 'coming slowly' but will be 'aggressive'

Michelle Mavroyeni from the SES told ABC Central West the flood waters were due to pick up their pace.

"The water is coming slowly [now], but when it does arrive it will be fast-flowing and fairly aggressive," Ms Mavroyeni said.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has issued a moderate to major flood warning for the Lachlan River.

"Major flooding is occurring at Forbes Iron Bridge, Cottons Weir and Jemalong where flood peaks similar to the August 1990 event are expected," a statement on the BoM website said.

"Downstream at Condoblin and Euabalong major flooding is occurring ahead of a second higher peak due next week."



SES Acting Deputy Commissioner Mark Morrow said sewer pump failures and power and telecommunication failures were expected in the town.

"The way the flood has behaved in Forbes is not the same as previous years," he said.

He said as a result it was difficult to get the right message out to people to encourage them to leave.

"Three to five days is a long time to go without essential goods," he said.

"Flood water has a lot of stuff in it that's not nice, there is chemicals from properties, dead livestock in the area.

"We prefer people to leave … there are high risks in staying in that area.



"They would be isolated for three to five days and there is a lot of health risks associated with the flood water."

Acting Deputy Commissioner Morrow said he understood why people were choosing to stay, but that they needed to make sure they had all the right information.

The damage to the district was already "quite significant", he added.

"There is a lot of crop damage out in the rural parts."

Full impact won't be known for some time

NSW Deputy Premier Troy Grant visited Forbes today and said the full impact of the slow-moving flood would not be known for some time.

"It's causing some difficulties because the water isn't moving traditionally as quickly as it would along the system, because we've had such a wet season the grass growth and the amount of crops and the healthy crops have held that back," Mr Grant said.

"It's a slow moving flood … and obviously the volume being record levels is putting some challenges into the mix.

"Obviously, the impacts of this flood will not be known for a long time."

He said it would take the area a long time to recover.

Regional Development Minister Fiona Nash said from the air the extent of the water was "absolutely devastating".



"You get an incredible picture from up there of how widespread this is and the water, around, on the ground, it's just massive," she said.

Ms Nash said she was in the area today to give local people some support.

"What I'm encouraged about already is the community working together, already hearing stories about people driving sandbags around ... are a bit incapacitated and not able to do anything else, but have found a way to help.

"Just tremendous seeing the whole community pull together."



SES fields 2,000 calls for help

Cheryl, who has lived in Forbes for about 50 years, said the community was already bracing for the river to peak later tonight.

She also said her home was under threat and she was concerned for the town.



"Particularly for the business owners that have had to lift goods and sandbag their businesses and will lose trade," she said.

"It's pretty imminent, if it gets any higher we could be in trouble.

"We sandbagged around the house ... we just let it go through the sheds, it was only minimal last night but it's going to increase if that peak's going to be higher."

The SES has received more than 2,320 requests for assistance and is expecting more as waters rise further on Sunday.

There have been a total of 95 flood rescues including animal rescues and medical transports.

The Defence Force has joined emergency crews to assist, with five troop carriers and high clearance vehicles.



Resident Paul Newcombe said this flood was much worse than the 1990 flood.

"[The water is] very very close, lapping up to the front step, there's sand bangs all the way around and at the back," Mr Newcombe said.

He said the sandbags did not do much, but rather just soaked up some of the moisture.

"It normally goes through town at 1.5 metres deep and doesn't get to here," he said.

"It's a very unusual flood … I don't know whether people have put banks up or something … it floods, but nowhere near like this, this is the worst I've ever seen."


- ABC

© ABC 2016

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