By national rural reporter Clint Jasper and regional reporters, 25 Nov 2021, 3:31 PM UTC
East coast wet weather floods rivers, isolates towns, wipes out crops
Parts of the east coast are getting drenched, with flood warnings in Queensland, NSW, and Victoria. Close to 60mm fell overnight at Byron Bay, Coonamble and Gunnedah while Dubbo recorded 66mm and Wagga Wagga received the highest total in NSW with 70mm of rain. Cessnock, Richmond, Bathurst, Tuggeranong, Cooma and Coonabarabran all recorded nearly 50mm overnight. Flooding has caused several road closures across Sydney, with the worst-hit areas being in Sydney's north west around Richmond and Pitt Town. The Bureau of Meteorology recorded up to 49 millimetres of rainfall in the region in the past 24 hours. Aerial vision from over Pitt Town and Windsor show water spilling onto pathways and flooded fields. Macquarie and Bell Streets in South Windsor and McClymonts Road in Maraylya remain closed in both directions. Oxford Falls Road at Oxford Falls and Berkshire Park at St Marys Road and Stony Creek Road are also closed. Hawkesbury River in Sydney's north west and Nepean River in Sydney's west remain on flood watch. In Queensland, more than 100mm was recorded in Bundaberg, around 80mm fell at Gladstone and Palmerville while 70mm fell at Cooktown, and 60mm on the Gold Coast. Bowen, Hervey Bay and Nambour recorded close to 50mm. A rain station at Combienbar in East Gippsland, Victoria recorded that state's highest total, with nearly 55mm falling overnight. Outback rain welcomed Many in far-west New South Wales have celebrated some of the best rain the region has seen in years. At Packsaddle Station, 175km north of Broken Hill, Trudy Atkins and Ben Lindsay recorded 39mm overnight. And the kids have been thoroughly entertained by the large puddles that have appeared around the homestead. In NSW corner country, 17mm fell at Theldarpa Station, and 7.5mm at Pimpara Kale Station. These are some of the best rainfalls the region has seen in decades, and graziers said they have been perfectly timed. The rains have closed the Barrier Highway, with South Australian police urging travellers to take extra care on the roads, and avoid floodwaters. Grain concerns Heavy rains have delayed harvest in parts of NSW and Victoria, which could see crops either downgraded from food-grade to animal feed or destroyed if they get too wet. In the NSW Western Plains region, Scott Empringham from Nevertire felt thankful he was able to get his crop harvested prior to the deluge. "I was fortunate to get the crop off before this hit of rain," Mr Empringham said. "We pulled the truck into the shed last Friday afternoon before the rains started, so, touch wood, I've had a good run." But others have not been as lucky. Near Moree, where 38?45mm fell overnight, grain grower Oscar Pearse said the harvest was on hold. Mr Pearse faced yield losses of between 10 to 100 per cent on his crops and estimated the downgraded quality could see income reduced by up to 70 per cent this season. For the crop that had been harvested, he was spending more than $80,000 on temporary storage. "This was supposed to be a recovery year after a major two-and-a-half-year drought," he said. "We've now, during the 2021 harvest period, received more than double the total rainfall we did for the whole 2019 growing season." Cherries hit Early varieties of cherries have been seriously affected by moisture in some key growing regions, including northern Victoria and southern NSW. "There are some regions that have tried to pick as much as they can, but the amount they've been able to pack has been a lot lower than they would have liked," Young grower Tom Eastlake said. "And there are other areas where growers have just walked away from early varieties and are hoping the others will be better." Mr Eastlake said the weekend brought a nervous wait with forecasts of more rain. Swollen rivers Water continues to rush into storages across the Murray-Darling Basin, as Hume Dam approaches 100 per cent capacity. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority increased its daily release of water from the dam from 21.5Gl to 30Gl per day on Thursday. "Current releases are not expected to exceed the minor flood level in the Murray River at Albury for now, however higher releases over the next 24 to 48 hours may result in flows above minor flood level," it said in a statement. The Murray, Murrumbidgee, Lachlan, Gwydir, Namoi, and Macquarie Rivers all have flood warnings in place. Stranded and on alert The small community of Wee Waa in northern New South Wales has become its own island, after being isolated from flooding overnight. The community has been isolated by road from all directions since yesterday evening after the Namoi River reached a height of 7.07 metres, 37 centimetres above the predicted river height. It may be cut off for more than 10 days. Up to nine homes at Cassilis and one in Murrurundi in New South Wales' Upper Hunter have been inundated by floodwaters, while the New England Highway between Scone and Aberdeen sits waterlogged. A major flood warning has been issued for Kingdon Ponds in the Hunter River catchment at Scone, with the local council advising that the river has broken its banks. Several emergency alerts for flash flooding were issued at The Gemfields in Queensland's Central Highlands between 8pm and midnight last night. In the past 48 hours, an average of 150 millimetres fell throughout the catchment, but falls of up to 270mm were recorded near Theresa Creek.