The torrential rain that has battered NSW for the past week has finally subsided but authorities say residents should not be fooled by the blue skies.
Swollen rivers could still breach barriers and the floods, which have already killed, are still considered life-threatening.
“The return of blue skies across so many areas belie the true nature of what’s still happening in many communities,” the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said.
The warning comes after NSW recorded its first death resulting from this week’s once-in-a-lifetime floods – a man who was driving to his first day of a new job.
The 25-year-old Pakistani man died after his newly-hired Toyota Camry vehicle became trapped in flood waters at Glenorie in northwest Sydney at about 6.25am on Wednesday.
Police believe it’s possible that in the dawn darkness the man had not noticed the depth of the water across the road.
Detective Inspector Chris Laird said the man had called triple zero when he hit water and began to sink, and remained on the line with the operator until about 7am.
The car was found after 1pm about 30 metres into flood waters and six metres under water.
“From the police force, all emergency services … here is the very reason why you should not make any attempt to drive through swollen rivers,” Mr Laird said.
Swelling rivers spell danger
Emergency services warn some of the state’s rivers will remain swollen into the weekend as some catchments are experiencing their highest water flows in 50 years.
Major flood warnings remain in place for the Macintyre, Gwydir, Clarence and Hawkesbury, Nepean and Colo rivers.
Areas of continued concern include Moree in the northwest, the Upper Hunter around Singleton, Grafton, parts of the Central Coast and the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment northwest of Sydney.
Almost 24,000 people in NSW have been cast from their homes and an additional 60,000 people have been told to be ready to evacuate.
Others are returning home but remain on alert.
Residents in Kempsey CBD and nearby areas were given the “all clear” to return home on Wednesday night as flooding eased on the Macleay River.
‘Unfolding of human tragedy’
There have been 11,000 calls for help to the SES so far, and 950 flood rescues.
The Bureau of Meteorology predicts there will be no major rain for at least a week.
Despite the sunnier weather, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state remained in crisis.
“What we are seeing before us in NSW is the unfolding of human tragedy… tens of thousands of people who will go back and never have the same experiences again,” Ms Berejiklian said in NSW parliament.
BOM meteorologist Victoria Dodds said flooding won’t recede until the weekend, particularly on the “complicated” Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley river system which restricts water flows at some points.
“River levels are still really high, we still have major flooding, it’s a very protracted flood event,” Ms Dodds said.
No reprieve for Queenslanders
The flooding has also yet to subside in Queensland where authorities warn that water will continue to make its way through flooded areas for several days.
Like NSW, Queensland recorded its first flood death on Wednesday – a 38-year-old father whose desperate wife had been active on social media since his disappearance on Monday morning.
“He didn’t turn up to work and hasn’t been able to be reached since. His phone is turned off,” Angela Hornman posted on Facebook on Tuesday.
“I just have to know he’s ok. Please tell him no matter what I LOVE HIM.”
Swift water rescue crews found David Hornman’s ute in the flooded Canungra Creek in the Gold Coast hinterland where almost half a metre of rain had fallen.
They secured his car and discovered his body was inside.
“A lot of the roads that wouldn’t usually flood have flooded during that time,” a police spokesman said.
Torrential rain that began falling across a wide band of southern Queensland on Sunday has stopped for the most part but Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk said the danger is not over.
“A major flood warning remains for the Logan River and a minor flood warning remains for the Albert River,” she told parliament on Wednesday.
Flooding impact less severe in Victoria
In Victoria, there remains a minor flood warning for the Snowy River, a final flood warning for the Cann and Genoa Rivers, and a flood watch for parts of Gippsland and Otway Coast.
In the 24 hours to 3.40pm on Wednesday, the local State Emergency Service received 149 calls for help.
Nine of the 11 flood callouts were from the eastern region where crews were busiest after 73 trees came down and 11 buildings were damaged.
East Gippsland experienced extreme flooding, with more than 1000 people in Mallacoota losing power after a pole came down.
But the impact in the state wouldn’t be anywhere near that of NSW and Queensland, senior meteorologist Richard Russell said.
He said Melbourne had “missed the worst of it”.
The city experienced just patchy showers until Wednesday afternoon.