Thousands of people in NSW have been told to evacuate or warned to get ready to leave as heavy rain continues to feed widespread flooding across greater Sydney, including the Hawkesbury-Nepean, and in the Illawarra.
The Bureau of Meteorology said the heavy rain might lead to flash flooding in the Illawarra, Blue Mountains, Sydney Metropolitan and parts of Hunter and Central Coast districts on Monday.
The State Emergency Service responded to more early 400 requests for help overnight and performed about 20 flood rescues, with that number expected to increase.
The crisis has already become deadly, with a kayaker killed in floodwaters on Sunday.
On Monday, there were almost 70 evacuation orders in Sydney’s west, south-west and north-west for areas including the Hawkesbury-Nepean and parts of Emu Plains as well as Penrith in the foothills of the Blue Mountains.
There was already major flooding at North Richmond, with river levels exceeding heights reached in March (15.92 metres). Further rises are possible on Monday.
SES spokesman Ashely Sullivan said even if the rain eased this week, as predicted, rivers would continue to rise because the ground was already saturated from the last flood emergency.
“We are seeing these rivers rise much faster than what’s been predicted. Much faster than what we expected,” he told the Nine Network on Monday.
“Things are happening quicker. The risk … has increased significantly.”
The SES is asking people to promptly heed evacuation orders and refrain from driving into flood waters.
“If you leave it too late, it becomes a rescue and our emergency service partners and the SES have to come and rescue you. We want to avoid that,” Mr Sullivan said.
“We’re still pulling people out of cars, we’re attending a lot of properties where people left it too late.”
Numerous evacuation centres have been set up across western Sydney.
“You will be looked after. Head to the evacuation centre. Play it safe,” Mr Sullivan said.
“I understand it’s school holidays but really have a look at your travel plans.
“If you don’t need to leave home, please, you know, bunker down at home if it’s safe to do so.
A combination of heavy rain and rapid dam spillages is causing rivers to rise at an alarming rate, shattering previous records.
But the rain across the Sydney metropolitan and Illawarra districts could start to ease later on Monday.
Six-hourly rainfall totals of 60-100 millimetres are still possible.
⚠️🌧️Severe Weather Warning current for heavy rainfall about central NSW on and east of the ranges. Locations which may be affected include Newcastle, Sydney, Penrith, Wollongong, Nowra, Bowral, Campbelltown, Katoomba & Lithgow. Details https://t.co/Ss766eSCrL #NSWFloods @NSWSES pic.twitter.com/GmkOHJx8NR
— Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) July 3, 2022
Winds gradually eased overnight after gale force warnings were issued on Sunday.
NSW Emergency Services Minister Steph Cooke said on Sunday the Warragamba Dam was spilling at a rate of more than 500 gigalitres a day, more than during the floods in March and April this year that inundated large swathes of the state.
The SES was joined by 100 Australian Defence Force members on Sunday to help with sandbagging and door-knocking communities to warn of flood threats focusing on the Hawkesbury-Nepean area.