Lismore floods exceed 1954 records, BoM warns of threat to southern NSW

Lismore floods exceed 1954 records, BoM warns of threat to southern NSW

Image via NSW SES on Facebook.

NSW emergency personnel have conducted 500 flood rescues to date as raging rivers continue to inundate the state's north, with Lismore's Wilsons River breaking all records since European settlement. 

Premier Dominic Perrottet told a press conference this afternoon there were currently 12 evacuation orders in place affecting close to 16,000 people, while a further 14,000 people from six areas were subject to an evacuation warning.

"Simply because your community has not flooded in the past does not mean that it will not flood over the course of this week," the NSW Premier said.

"The conditions are expected here in New South Wales to get worse. So whilst at the moment the flooding is located in north and northeastern New South Wales, we would expect over the course of this week for that flooding to move further south to the south coast, and also flash flooding in areas across our state."

Minister for Emergency Services Steph Cooke said very dangerous rainfall and life-threatening flash flooding was ongoing and expected to continue for several hours, although conditions were hindering efforts to send rescue aircraft to affected communities.

"The Wilsons River at Lismore is reaching record flood levels. The last record flood along the Wilsons at Lismore was set in 1954 and it peaked at 12.17 metres. The river is presently at 14.36 metres and continuing to rise – this is entirely unprecedented for this region," Cooke said.

"So for those people who have lived here or lived in that wonderful part of the world for many, many years, we need you to be on alert now more than ever. These conditions are different to anything you will have experienced before.

"We are experiencing difficult weather conditions. It is hampering our ability to get aircraft in the air. We have four RFS aircraft ready to go – we’ve been able to get one aircraft up intermittently but conditions are very, very challenging."

Record flooding from the Tweed River has also occurred above March 2017 and March 1974 events in Murwillumbah, Tumbulgum and Chinderah. Further south, there has also been major flooding in the Clarence River catchment at Grafton, Ulmarra and Maclean, as well as in the Brunswich River and Marshalls Creek catchments at Billinudgel and Mullumbimby; the latter town received 520mm of rainfall in the 24 hours to 9am today.

There are currently three Australian Defence Force (ADF) aircraft en route to the region, as well as 200 defence personnel on the ground, 42 brigades and two additional strike teams ready for deployment.

"This is a natural disaster of unprecedented proportions for this region. I'm once again respectfully asking all residents who are currently the subject of an evacuation warning to prepare to leave at very, very short notice," she said.

The Bureau of Meteorology forecasts the rain in the north will gradually ease later this afternoon, although further rain and thunderstorms are on the horizon throughout the course of this week, especially Thursday and Friday. The experts are also forecasting an east coast low pressure system to form sometime from Wednesday, leading to severe weather warnings, damaging winds, significant seas and swell, and flooding throughout southern NSW, likely from the Hunter region down.

Evacuation orders are currently in place for the following areas:

  • Ulmarra;
  • Low lying properties in Southgate;
  • Murwillumbah CBD and low-lying areas of East Murwillumbah;
  • Rocky Creek Dam;
  • Low lying areas of Coraki;
  • Mullumbimby;
  • Billinudgel;
  • Ocean Shores, New Brighton, Brunswick Heads and South Gold Beach;
  • Lismore;
  • South Murwillumbah and Condong and surrounding areas;
  • Areas of South Lismore;
  • North Lismore;
  • Kyogle and Wiangaree;
  • Tumbulgum and surrounding areas:
  • Clarence River

Catastrophe declaration extended to NSW

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has today extended the Insurance Catastrophe declaration currently in place for Southeast Queensland to include areas in NSW that have been impacted by the weather event from the border south to the mid-north coast.

Following Suncorp's announcement today it had received 5,000 claims to date - of which 70 per cent were from QLD and 30 per cent were from NSW - the ICA reports insurers in both states have received almost 15,000 claims from policyholders, up 33 per cent in one day.

The council will soon provide an estimate of claims costs given the event is still unfolding and damage is still being reported.

"Personal safety should be the number one priority as this extreme weather event continues to impact communities along the east coast," says Insurance Council of Australia CEO Andrew Hall.

"It’s too early to estimate the insurance damage bill as many property owners remain in evacuation centres and flood waters continue to rise in many areas, or in others recede slowly.

"The insurance industry expects the number of claims to rise significantly as policyholders return to their homes and businesses."

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