Weather News

Thousands of people in northern NSW cut off as heavy rain moves down the coast

Saturday May 2, 2015 - 16:24 EST
ABC image
Roads are submerged at Nimbin on the far north coast of NSW. - ABC

Thousands of people living in the upper reaches of New South Wales north coast rivers have been isolated by floodwaters.

An east coast low that wreaked havoc across south-east Queensland overnight, today dumped heavy rain in catchments from the Tweed to north of Newcastle.

NSW State Emergency Service (SES) says river levels are continuing to rise along the mid north coast with the town of Bellingen cut off.

SES spokeswoman Jenny Funari said some areas are feeling the impact more than others.

"We're watching the Bellinger River very closely, it's on a major flood alert and still rising," she said.

"The SES have been in assisting people in the Bellinger River Tourist Park to move their caravans and they're also assisting businesses and residents to start getting ready for some of that flood impact."

The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast damaging winds, heavy rainfall and very heavy surf for the northern rivers, mid north coast and northern tablelands.

In some parts of the region up to 200 millimetres fell overnight.

SES crews at Kempsey and Port Macquarie are preparing for the worst.

SES spokesman Phil Campbell said people around Coffs Harbour and Bellingen should delay all non-essential travel.

"If you're travelling up in that part of the state just be aware that roads up there are closing and rivers are still rising and heavy rain is falling," he said.

Darcy Browning has lived on the upper reaches of the Bellinger River at Darkwood for 50 years, where around 500 people live.

He said he expects they will be isolated for another couple of days.

"All the bridges are well and truly under, probably most of the bridges would be covered with two metres of flood water at least," he said.

Several people rescued from cars on flooded roads

and have claimed the lives of five people after cars were washed away by floodwaters.

The SES has responded to more than 600 jobs since yesterday evening, across an area including in Tweed Heads, Ballina, Lismore, Murwillumbah and Coffs Harbour.

It said most emergency calls have involved trees down and leaking roofs, but a number of people have been rescued from cars on flooded roads.

In one incident this morning, neighbours heard a man calling for help and found him clinging to a tree in the water at Booyong, near Lismore.

Richmond-Tweed SES spokeswoman Janet Pettit said the 70-year-old man is now recovering in hospital.

"NSW SES attended the scene as did the Westpac rescue helicopter and thankfully we were able to get him out of the water and Westpac transported him to the Lismore Base Hospital," she said.

NSW SES Assistant Commissioner Greg Newton said volunteers were poised to respond to the weather as it tracked down the coast.

"In Lismore, we have an evacuation order in place for a number of properties and we're also looking closely at the area of North Macksville where there are properties under threat," he said.

"It's about 15 properties [in Lismore]. So all those folk were door-knocked last night.

"The area in Macksville, they're on a warning at the moment so they've all been advised to prepare to evacuate should that become necessary."

The Richmond Tweed SES said residents in eight houses in North Lismore and those in the Lismore Palms caravan park have been told to evacuate.

The Wilson River at Lismore is expected to peak at 7.7 metres at 1:00pm.

Trevor Wingfield from the Gorge near Grafton said it was a wet and woolly night on his farm with 156 millimetres falling since 5:00pm (AEST) last night.

Mr Wingfield's farm runs alongside the Clarence River, which is now starting to see the effects of last night's downpour.

"I got up here at half past five here this morning and I could see the river and it hadn't moved," he said.

"It was still at the level it was yesterday and I just walked out here just before the phone rang and the river is just coming in one head, roaring, and it's risen about four foot in an hour."

Low pressure system 'weakening' as it moves down coast

BOM forecaster Sean Carson said the low pressure system was weakening and the only weather warning currently in place is for the mid north coast of NSW.

"Most of the focus now is on the mid north coast of NSW between Wooli and down to Foster but the low is weakening," he said.

"We talked about those 100mm rainfall rates per hour last night. They're now probably delivering about 20mm per hour.

"We still have severe weather warnings in place for the mid north coast of NSW. But those rainfall rates are suggesting that this system is starting to break up which is good news."

At Nimbin around 1,200 people are isolated and the town hall is being used as emergency accommodation.

The town is full due to the annual cannabis festival being held this weekend.

The safety of roads to Nimbin and across the region are being assessed.

NSW SES deputy commissioner Steve Pearce said crews from Victoria and South Australia had been flown into northern NSW to help local volunteers.


© ABC 2015

More breaking news

Sydney Morning Herald
ABC News

Display Your Local Weather

Weather News

Mild minima in northern WA, frigid in the south

13:42 EST

Parts of the Kimberley region enjoyed balmy overnight conditions whilst those further south awoke to temperatures well below average.

Windy weather waving warmth out of the southeast

11:42 EST

A strong frontal system is crossing southeast Australia and, for Victoria, this has meant wind speeds have picked up and cold days are on their way.

Get a sneak peak into the new Weatherzone Beta website experience while we continue to build out its full functionality.
Explore new datasets, map layers, 7-day charts, 12-month trends and much more!