Rain to clear but NSW flood risks remain

Heavy rainfall is set to ease across coastal NSW as 15,000 people remain on tenterhooks for an evacuation order and weather authorities warn flood risks are unlikely to abate for several days.

Some 18,000 NSW residents have been evacuated from their homes since last week, with warnings the flood clean-up could stretch beyond Easter.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday said there were several weather fronts, “catastrophic” in their dimensions, impacting large swathes of the state.


“This is a weather incident beyond anything we could have comprehended,” Ms Berejiklian said in parliament.

People northwest of Sydney have been ordered to evacuate homes amid the downpour as a surge of water flows into catchments, causing rivers to rise.

Major flooding is occurring along the Colo River and the State Emergency Service ordered about 500 people in 200 homes to get out on Tuesday.

Boats and helicopters were deployed by the SES to help them leave.

People in caravans along a stretch of the Hawkesbury River from Windsor to Wiseman’s Ferry have been told to prepare to leave, as have those in the Picton CBD due to rising levels at Stonequarry Creek.

More than 10,000 requests for help have been made around NSW since Thursday, with emergency services performing about 900 flood rescues.

An inland weather system coming across from the Northern Territory is also blighting rural communities such as Grafton and Lismore.

Evacuation warnings persist at Kempsey on the state’s mid north coast, while the Hunter, the Central Tablelands and the south coast are in for a drenching.

A major flood warning is in place for the Orara River at Glenreagh and Coutts Crossing.

The Bureau of Meteorology on Tuesday said conditions were set to ease in coastal areas, but were likely to remain severe for inland NSW.

However, sunnier skies in coastal NSW will not end flood risks, with rain catchments continuing to flow into bursting rivers.

It will also likely continue to rain on the state’s south coast.

“It is almost impossible to believe but we will see blue skies and sunshine just later this afternoon in western Sydney and on the mid north coast,” bureau meteorologist Agata Imielska told reporters.

“Now it is very important to remember that even though we’ll have blue sky and sunshine returning, flooding will continue and the flood risk will continue.

“Conditions with this clearing trend will mean we will see improvements across the board, but in terms of that flood risk, those inland catchments … they do tend to respond much slower.”

Ms Imielska also said some places near Port Macquarie had copped more than one metre of rain in less than a week.

Warnings of moderate flooding along the Nepean River at Penrith are in place and floodwaters are expected to affect the upper Nepean.

Ms Berejiklian also warned the rivers would keep rising after the rain stopped.

“If you have been asked to be on alert for evacuation, please get together your precious belongings, make sure you are safe and make sure you’re ready to leave at very short notice,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters.

Two Australian Defence Force aircraft have been made available to the SES on the NSW south coast for search and rescue activities.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters the government had received a request for 1000 ADF personnel to help with the NSW clean-up.

The federal government said later on Tuesday that $5.7 million had already been distributed in assistance to the flood-affected.

“We want it to be done swiftly and effectively to try and get these communities back on their feet as quickly as we possibly can,” Mr Morrison said.

The weather bureau is predicting widespread rainfall of more than 100mm across the NSW south coast on Tuesday and up to 300mm in some parts.

Parts of NSW will also be hit by wind gusts of up to 90km/h on Tuesday, prompting fears trees could be uprooted from the saturated soil.

More than 260 NSW schools were closed on Tuesday due to the rainfall.

© AAP 2021