Weather News

NSW on alert as wild weather heads north

Monday May 31, 2010 - 00:14 EST
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The battering at the wharf was so heavy it set off the alarms in the shop on the wharf - ABC
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Usually a calm entrance to the Kianinny boat ramp near Tathra - ABC
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Hopefully the lifesaving ring won't be needed in seas that big - ABC
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Emergency crews all over the region tracking down the cause of extensive blackouts - ABC
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In wet weather jogging kit on the Tathra beach road - ABC
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Heavy fallen limbs and trees brought down power lines and blocked south coast roads. - ABC

Residents are battening down as strong winds continue to lash the New South Wales south coast and a cluster of low pressure systems heads north toward Wollongong and Sydney.

Forecasters were predicting gale-force winds of up to 100 kilometres per hour to hit the Illawarra region, south of Sydney, overnight.

The weather bureau says another bout of severe weather is expected to hit further up the coast at Jervis Bay and Nowra.

Rob Webb from the Bureau of Meteorology says the system will gradually move north but the winds will weaken.

"The winds will extend up towards places like Wollongong, but we're expecting them to lose a lot of their bite by the time that does occur," he said.

New South Wales Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan is warning people south of Sydney to be prepared as the storm moves further up the coast.

"We just reiterate the warning to people not to go into flooded waterways or creeks, make sure they're staying a bit back from the coast, obviously the waves on the coast are pretty severe," he said.

On Sunday a surfer was taken to hospital with suspected spinal injuries at Cronulla in Sydney's south.

State Emergency Service (SES) spokesman Colin Johnson says extra crews are travelling from Sydney and the Southern Highlands.

Mr Johnson says teams from other areas around the state are providing assistance, and more are on stand-by as the low heads toward Wollongong.

"As the low moves north our focus of attention of course will start moving into the more populous areas of our region," he said.

A flood watch is in place for the Bega, Moruya, Tuross, Snowy and Shoalhaven rivers and the weather bureau is warning of possible flash flooding at Wollongong and other areas below the Illawarra escarpment.

Mr Whan says the SES is helping clean up the damage on the far south coast caused by a similar low pressure system on Sunday.

Winds of up to 120 kilometres per hour hit parts of the coast on Sunday, damaging property and causing large-scale blackouts.

The State Emergency Service says they have had around 230 calls for help, with Narooma and Bermagui the worst hit towns.

The SES number is 132 500.

Peter Higgins from the SES says some houses have been damaged.

"There has been some unroofing but not complete houses lost," he said.

The ABC's Thomas Oriti, reporting from Bega on the far south coast, described some of the damage on Sunday.

"There's a lot of debris on the road, the arms of trees all over the place, very, very wet and gusty," he said.

"Power is flicking on and off quite often. We have heard that all the way down the coast from towns such as Quaama to Eden, the power is out completely."

Electricity wires collapsed onto local roads, leaving more than 9,000 people without power in the Eden, Bega, Bodalla and Narooma areas.

Country Energy says it has restored power to Narooma, but Bermagui, Potato Point and Tilba are still in the dark.

Country Energy says repairs should be complete by Monday morning.

New South Wales Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan says it is too early to tell how much damage the storms are causing.

"It wouldn't be the worst that we've ever seen but it's certainly causing some damage at the moment," he said.

"[It is] hard to know until it finishes exactly what that total damage will be, about 160 calls is not massive at the moment but we are expecting that to increase over the day as the storm progresses north up the coast."

The owner of a bed and breakfast at Eden, Fay Speer, says she has had power outages, heavy rain and strong winds.

"I'm not sure how much rain we had but it absolutely teemed all night and then the winds came up early this morning," she said.

"Now we've had a couple of blackouts early this morning and the seas are very, very rough."

The wild weather caused road closures in the worst-affected areas of the south coast between Bega and Ulladulla on Sunday.

Police Inspector Jason Edmunds from the South Coast Local Area Command says the Princes Highway is closed at Cobargo and there is very limited access at Bodalla.

He says fallen trees are blocking the Snowy Mountains Highway at Brown Mountain and crews from the local council are working with the RTA to clear the roads.

"We're all doing the best we can at the moment, with the conditions remaining the same and trees still coming down at different places," he said.

"We're advising motorists to avoid unnecessary travel and certainly to be very careful of their speeds given the fact that they wont know what's around the next corner."

The Snowy Highway and Princes Highway will remain closed overnight.


© ABC 2010

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