NSW braces for biggest downpour since 1990s
Hundreds of millimetres of rain is set to lash Sydney and the surrounding regions, with NSW facing the most torrential downpour since the late 1990s.
Flash flooding, monster waves and high winds are expected to batter the state over the weekend as emergency services brace for the worst.
The Bureau of Meteorology said about 100mm of rain is expected across parts of the state on Saturday - and double that could fall on Sunday - because of an east coast low.
"The rainfall will be variable but hundreds of millimetres. It's not something we see that often," BOM acting NSW state manager Jane Golding.
"The multi-day rainfall from this event looks like much more than what we had during the June 2016 east coast low which was our last significant east coast low.
"Potentially we haven't seen anything like this since the late 1990s."
The deluge is likely to cause significant overland flooding, flash flooding of creeks and rivers and landslips along the Illawarra escarpment and southern and central NSW where fires have burned out much of the landscape.
Severe thunderstorm warnings are also in place for the North West Slopes and Plains, Northern Tablelands and parts of the Hunter, Central Tablelands, Central West Slopes and Plains and Upper Western.
Severe Weather Update: widespread heavy rain & flood risk along the east coast. Video current 2 pm AEDT 8 February 2020.— Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (@BOM_au) February 8, 2020
For the latest forecasts & warnings visit https://t.co/Qs1ZcX4YTb; follow advice from emergency services @NSWSES @QldFES #NSWfloods #Qldweather pic.twitter.com/pV1ormV9hS
Parts of the state already received more than 200mm of rain on Friday and falls of 100mm-plus are expected today with rain expected to intensify over the next 24-36 hours.
The NSW SES have rescued 13 carloads of people, mostly motorists driving into floodwaters, after rain battered the Central Coast on Friday night.
Rain bucketed the region, with Mt Elliot receiving 184mm, Toukley 159mm, Kangy Angy 140mm and Wyong 125mm from 9pm Friday to 4am Saturday.
A video posted online of a man driving his jetski past a McDonald's down a flooded street in Tuggerah on the Central Coast drew strong condemnation from NSW Police Minister David Elliott, who labelled the driver a "boofhead" and asked police to investigate.
"I would implore the community, motorists and anybody else who seems to think risking their own lives is something that is funny or could be made entertainment, it's just not on," he said.
"We have emergency services deployed during a difficult job under difficult circumstances, and for them to have to divert their resources … it's just not good enough," Mr Elliott said.
The SES has more than 600 volunteers on the ground preparing for flash flooding with a severe weather warning current from Coffs Harbour in the north to Moruya in the south.
NSW SES Commissioner Carlene York said the SES had received numerous calls for assistance including from the Sydney and Blue Mountains area in the past four days.
"These jobs range from impact on homes and businesses, fallen trees across major roads and lifesaving flood rescues," she said.
With weather expected to worsen, high tides and heavy rain will bring additional risks, she said, with the Yarramundi, North Windsor and Richmond bridges likely to become inaccessible in coming days.
Flood warnings have also been issued for the Hawkesbury- Nepean catchment.
"We are asking for communities to work with us. Again, a lot of sandbagging has taken place and a lot of preventive work, but we are looking at underlying areas being impacted tomorrow in the south of the Blue Mountains.
The low is expected to bring damaging winds of more than 90km/h and abnormally high tides along the coastal fringe between Ulladulla and Forster later today.
The Bureau of Meteorology is warning of flooding on the Central Coast, greater Sydney and Illawarra regions, Central Tablelands and Blue Mountains.
A Severe #Thunderstorm Warning issued for heavy rainfall for the Northern Rivers, North West Slopes and Plains, Northern Tablelands and parts of Central West Slopes and Plains and Upper Western. Full warning: https://t.co/ufIHzpphLQ #SES StormSafe info: https://t.co/kXBIXWStiz pic.twitter.com/JjMTJpjMnO— Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) February 8, 2020
Heavy rain and flash flooding is also expected in the mid-north coast and lower Hunter regions including in the fire-ravaged south coast from late Saturday.
Ms Golding said the system was expected to intensify this afternoon and tomorrow.
"It will be variable, but in general terms, up to 200mm today and 1.5 or two times more than that tomorrow," she said. "It isn't something we see that often."
The Bureau warned that the burned out landscape and loss of vegetation across affected areas had left it vulnerable to landslips.
"There is an elevated risk for things like landslips occurring," Ms Golding said.
"There is also a lot of debris around at the moment because of the fires and that tends to get washed into creeks.
"It's a hazard either by flying down the creeks into the rivers but we also think there will be points where it will get blocked and then at some point the energy of the water will push it down the stream and exacerbate the risk of flash flooding."
The BOM has warnings in place for the Brunswick, upper Nepean, Orara, Moruya, Clyde and Colo rivers, Wollembi Creek, Tuggerah Lake and St Georges Basin, with moderate to major flooding expected.
Strong winds were also forecast, with waves of between five to six metres set to batter the coast between Batemans Bay and the Central Coast. After being ravaged by recent fires, the state's south coast is now set to be lashed by heavy rain from late Saturday.
⚠️ #Flood Watch issued for #HawkesburyNepean catchment and parts of the #SouthCoast with moderate to major flooding possible. See https://t.co/AdztI2rqg1 for details and updates; follow advice from @NSWSES #NSWFloods pic.twitter.com/BC2PPocQqM— Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) February 8, 2020
Rain bucketed down on the Central Coast overnight with Mt Elliot receiving 184mm, Toukley 159mm, Kangy Angy 140mm and Wyong 125mm from 9pm Friday to 4am Saturday.
A trough lying along central and northern NSW is expected to bring heavy rain and wind to Sydney and the surrounding regions on Saturday before extending to the south coast late Saturday and Sunday.
The Bureau is warning of flooding on the Central Coast, Sydney, Illawarra, Central Tablelands and Blue Mountains.
Heavy rain and flash flooding is also expected in the Mid North Coast and lower Hunter regions.
The NSW SES said they had pre-positioned resources in regions which were expected to be flooded and warned residents to avoid unnecessary travel during storms.
Forster on the Mid North Coast and Nowra on the south coast were also expected to cop damaging wind gusts in excess of 90kmh and abnormally high tides.
Up to 300 millimetres has already been recorded in some parts of the north coast with similar totals expected in the Sydney basin by the end of the weekend.
Severe weather caused havoc for Sydney's train network on Friday night, temporarily damaging signal equipment at Lidcombe and delaying some services by more than 90 minutes.
The equipment has been repaired but Transport for NSW advised commuters to keep allowing extra travel time as major delays continued.
BOM acting NSW manager Jane Golding said while rain could cause roads to flood in the city, much less will fall in the state's drought-ravaged west.
"The bulk of the rain does look like it will affect the coastal ranges and the eastern side of the divide," Ms Golding said.
Major Delays continue to services due to severe weather conditions affecting signalling equipment at Lidcombe.— Trains Info (@TrainsInfo) February 7, 2020
Services are currently moving through the affected area at a significantly reduced speed. Some services are delayed over 90 minutes. Apologies for the inconvenience.
While the rain has brought a reprieve for firefighters, the NSW SES are flat out with more than 650 volunteers in the field responding to more than 1800 jobs around the state.
"Most of the damage so far is the leaking roofs, damaged properties, fallen trees and stranded motorists, some of whom have attempted to drive through flooded areas," SES commissioner Carlene York said.
The SES will be moving resources down into the Illawarra and the south coast over the weekend as the weather system moves south.
"The fire damaged areas will bring extra risks as the heavy water and floods move through (with) more likelihood of fallen trees and more run-off," Ms York said.
NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons says the rain is "breaking the back" of the horror bushfire season.
"The rain is good for business and farms as well as being really good for quenching some of these fires we've been dealing with for many, many months," the commissioner told ABC TV on Friday.
She said there was a big demand from residents for sandbags to stave off flooding.
Police and Emergency Services Minister David Elliot said the SES had conducted 683 jobs since Wednesday. Of these were five flood rescues.
"We don't want to see lots of widespread damage and disruption from flooding, but it is certainly a welcome change to the relentless campaign of hot, dry weather." There are currently 38 fires burning across NSW.
Severe Weather Update: widespread heavy rainfall and flood risk along the east coast. 7 February 2020— Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (@BOM_au) February 7, 2020
Video is current at 1 pm AEDT 7 February 2020.
For the latest weather and warnings, information visit https://t.co/qlzYU0jRuR and follow advice from emergency services. pic.twitter.com/t64rcJS249
The Bureau of Meteorology on Friday issued a severe weather warning for heavy rainfall, damaging winds, abnormally high tides and damaging surf, stretching along the coast from parts of the Northern Rivers to south coast regions.
Hazardous surf warnings are also in place for the Macquarie coast, Hunter coast, Sydney coast, Illawarra coast, Batemans coast and Eden coast.
Wind warnings have been issued for the Hunter coast, Macquarie coast, Sydney coast and Illawarra coast, while minor flood warnings are in place for the Bellinger, Kalang, Orara and Paroo rivers.
Parts of the North West Slopes and Plains and Northern Tablelands regions are also subject to a severe thunderstorm warning.
#FRNSW Strike Team Zulu, a flood rescue unit that has been deployed to Bellingen are assisting the SES with flooding in the area and ensuring the local community are aware of any risks.— Fire and Rescue NSW (@FRNSW) February 7, 2020
If you see flooding, please do not attempt to drive, ride or walk through it. #NSWFloods pic.twitter.com/pVdDhcqV1s