‘Leave now’: Water rises faster than expected in NSW town as flood crisis worsens

NSW warnings, flood threat for Victoria

Residents of Forbes, NSW, have been ordered to evacuate with the river level rising faster than expected as record volumes of water spill from one of the state’s biggest dams.

Just over a week after experiencing record flooding, the town was given a 7am Tuesday deadline to get out of the path of more damaging flows – expected to exceed the major flood level on Tuesday morning.

As the state’s weather disaster passed 62 days, towns in the central west are bracing for another round of inundation and the SES has called in overseas support for the first time.

It comes as the Wyangala dam, which is more than twice the volume of Sydney Harbour, is releasing a record amount of water destined for towns like Forbes and Condobolin on the Lachlan River.

Renewed inundation is expected to begin in Forbes on Tuesday and the BOM said water levels would peak around 10.8 metres on Wednesday — similar to the level reached in the June 1952 flood.

Forecasters warned of significant flooding in Bathurst, with fears record flood levels of more than seven metres would see flood levees breached.

People in the southern border town of South Albury and those at Western Plains Tourist Park in the central west have also been ordered to evacuate.

Bureau of Meteorology Senior Meteorologist Jonathan How said the weekend rain was causing “significant flooding for large parts of the country”.

On Tuesday, flood emergency warnings stretched from the Queensland border through to Victoria.

“For many of these rivers, once we see the peaks upstream we will have a better idea of what we can expect further downstream,” Mr How said.

Severe flooding hit numerous regional towns across NSW on Monday, with 100 people rescued from roofs in the central west town of Eugowra and extensive flood damage seen in nearby Molong.

A cold front will move to the south on Tuesday, with some snow expected in southern parts of NSW, before a high pressure system from the south sees conditions clear on Wednesday.

Forbes is bracing for its second flooding in recent weeks. Photo: AAP

Forbes hit again

Forbes Mayor Phyllis Miller said people were shocked by another inundation so soon.

“They can’t believe this could happen twice in such a short period of time,” she told ABC TV on Tuesday.

“This is really heartbreaking. Our farming community and businesses are suffering terribly.”

The Newell highway was closed, with no hope of through traffic for some time.

“It’s terrible, really, for the economy of a small rural town,” she said.

Watch the BOM's latest forecast

Source: Bureau of Meteorology

‘Very serious situation’

“This is a very serious situation,” Emergency Services Minister Steph Cooke said on Monday.

“The entire central west of NSW has been hit very hard in the last 24 hours.

“The ground is so saturated, that all it takes is one heavy downpour to cause the type of life-threatening flash flooding we have experienced overnight and into today.”

“This [severe weather] event is now in its 62nd day, and every day it throws up new challenges.”

Four people had died in the past 62 days as a result of the severe weather, although no deaths had been reported in the previous 24 hours, she said.

Twelve flood rescue operators were flying in from New Zealand to support exhausted State Emergency Service crews in Parkes, Ms Cooke said.

“The SES is now also working with authorities in Singapore and the United States of America to secure additional support.”

It was the first time the SES had made a request for overseas assistance, SES Commissioner Carlene York said.

“Because of the length and the devastating effects of these floods.”

Tasmania flood warnings

Heavy rain is forecast for southern Tasmania, with several flood warnings in place, including for areas damaged following record falls in mid-October.

The Bureau of Meteorology predicts falls of 30-60 millimetres on Tuesday across the south-east and lower east of the island state with higher totals in isolated areas.

Flood alerts were issues for residents along parts of the Huon River, southwest of Hobart, on Monday afternoon, warning of risks to property, livestock, equipment and crops.

Rivers in northern catchments are continuing to rise following recent rain, with moderate flood warnings in place for the Macquarie and South Esk rivers and minor warnings for the Meander and North Esk rivers.

In mid-October roughly 100 properties, plus road and bridges, were damaged following record-breaking rainfall in the state’s north.

The north and northeast received 20-50 millimetres in the 24 hours to 9am on Monday.

Wind gusts of 80-90km/h are also forecast along the southeast and east coasts on Tuesday as part of a cold front that is expected to deliver snow as low as 700 metres.

Vic flood threat

The flood emergency is far from over in Victoria, with the weekend’s deluge putting extra pressure on saturated waterways and catchments.

Showers and possible hail have been forecast south of the ranges from Tuesday, while isolated thunderstorms could hit northern Victoria before wild weather ramps up again from the weekend.

The Murray River is expected to peak at Wakool Junction, north of Swan Hill along the NSW border, by about midday on Tuesday.

Flood water is steadily flowing north towards Mildura and is likely to reach the major regional centre by late next week.

Major flooding is also expected at Yarrawonga in the state’s north-east on Thursday and further west in Tocumwal by the weekend, as floodwaters from Albury-Wodonga head downstream.

Catchments across the state have been full for some time now after record rainfall in October.

Some 85 warnings remain active and almost 450 roads are closed.

Major to moderate flood warnings have been issued for several waterways across the state. However, Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said he did not expect rivers to rise as high as they did in in previous weeks.

On Monday, the emergency moved south to the Mornington Peninsula as flash flooding inundated streets, isolated residents and damaged homes across several suburbs.

There were more than 650 calls for help across the state in the roughly 24 hours to Monday morning, with about 300 from the peninsula.

Seven homes in the suburb of Hastings received flooding above floor level, forcing residents to relocate.

In the state’s west, six homes were flooded at Lethbridge near Geelong while authorities are still working out how to move heavy machinery onto saturated ground to fix a train derailment at Inverleigh.

The state’s Environmental Protection Authority has issued a fresh plea for communities in northern Victoria to stay away from flood waters after finding low levels of the bacteria E. coli in major waterways at Swan Hill, Rochester and Echuca.

-with AAP

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