Flooding in the New South Wales Hunter region has led to evacuations, rescues and hundreds of calls for help as forecasters warn of more heavy rain and the prospect of flash flooding in Sydney.
Newcastle roads were turned into rivers of fast-moving water as emergency crews dealt with more than 1,400 requests for assistance, including hundreds across the Hunter region.
Six streets in Raymond Terrace have been ordered to evacuate, with the Hunter River expected to exceed minor flood levels in the area in the hours ahead.
Across the state, rescue crews carried out more than 20 rescues from flood waters.
Overnight, residents were evacuated from low-lying parts of the flood-ravaged town of Dungog, where wild weather led to three deaths less than a year ago.
Several rivers reached their peak overnight and are now falling, including the Gloucester River, the Myall River at Bulahdelah and the Williams River at Dungog.
However, a major flood warning remains in place at Bulga and authorities warned five homes were at risk of flooding in the small community of Glen Martin, north of Newcastle, as the Williams River there continued to swell.
Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) duty forecaster Dimitry Danchuk said rainfall there was increasing rapidly.
“Effectively this area went from minor to moderate flooding to moderate to major flooding,” Mr Danchuk said.
“Some easing trend is likely to happen late in the day during the afternoon and evening, as we expect this low to gradually contract to the north east.”
Dozens of roads around the Newcastle and Hunter region are cut and motorists have been advised to avoid all unnecessary travel.
A New South Wales State Emergency Service spokesman said the small town of Torryburn was isolated by floodwaters.
Newcastle Airport has closed its runway at Williamtown, with floodwaters covering the low-lying area.
Wes, a resident of the Newcastle suburb of Carrington, said he was surprised by just how much rain was falling.
“This is the worst it’s been since I’ve been here in a couple of years,” Wes said.
“April storms were as bad as this but we’ve got a high tide so water just can’t get away. When the tide drops it will probably come down a bit.”
Farm country in the Tuross and Bega Valleys in the state’s south remain inundated, water levels in that area are receding.
The Bega and Moruya Rivers fell below the minor flood level overnight, despite more scattered showers.
A BoM statement said there was a severe weather warning in place for damaging winds and heavy rainfall in the mid north coast and Hunter districts.
The warning also said there was potential for dangerous flash flooding in Newcastle this morning.
“At the time of issue, flood warnings were current for Wollombi Brook, and the Colo, Myall, and Paterson and Williams Rivers.”
The BoM said between 9:00am on Tuesday and midnight, 254 millimetres of rain fell at Bungwahl near Bulahdelah, including 80 millimetres in the hour to 7:00pm.
Campers trapped by floodwaters
SES regional controller Greg Murphy said emergency workers would try to rescue campers cut off by floodwaters in Deua National Park, west of Moruya.
“We’ve got confirmed 21 people who are currently isolated at Bendethera and we will be looking at either resupplying or helping those people to get out of that area today,” Mr Murphy said.
He said there were no reports of injuries.
He said conditions should improve over the next few days.
“Around the mid-south coast and up into the highlands we are looking at a couple of days of sunshine. So I think the end of the week is looking a whole lot better than the front end of the week,” Mr Murphy said.
SES deputy commissioner Greg Newton said the majority of flood rescues involved people attempting to drive through floodwaters.
He said a pregnant woman was rescued from a property that was isolated by floods in the state’s south.
“That went very well. I believe she’s in hospital,” Mr Newton said.
“We’re also out and about looking for people, looking in areas where people may be at risk such as low-lying camp grounds.
“Many people are on holidays at the moment so may not be familiar with their area, so they need to take that extra care to be aware of what’s going on around them and be prepared to move if required.”