The NSW State Emergency Service has warned travellers heading to Queensland to keep safe and stay out of floodwater, as the Mid-North Coast and Northern Rivers region face continuing heavy rain.
NSW State Emergency Service Northern Zone spokesman David Rankine said it was a surprising turn of events, given the recent lifting of the NSW-Queensland border.
“It has been a hell of a year,” he said.
“Who could have imagined two weeks out from Christmas now the border has been opened and people are travelling through our great community it is raining to the extent that it is, with potential flooding putting travellers at risk.
“For tourists and locals alike, be mindful of where you are driving during these storms and rain. It is never a good idea to cross a flooded causeway.”
The NSW Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has issued a severe weather warning for the region, with heavy rain along the coast expected to ease later today, before worsening conditions late on Sunday and early on Monday.
The BOM has warned that strong winds of more than 90 kilometres per hour, damaging surf and high tides could result in coastal erosion around Ballina.
It said rainfall could be increased by thunderstorms that could lead to dangerous flash flooding.
A flood watch is in place for Coffs Harbour, Bellingen, Sawtell, Dorrigo, Grafton, Yamba and Evans Head.
The overnight rainfall reached 203 millimetres at Bowraville, 187mm at Logans Crossing, 180mm at Spicketts Creek, and both Utungun and Bellingen recorded 161mm.
Emergency evacuation order at Sawtell
There were fears early on Saturday morning that parts of Sawtell, south of Coffs Harbour, could be inundated.
Mr Rankine said some residents with properties backing onto Middle Creek were being warned to move to higher ground.
“Our volunteers have been out doorknocking this morning six properties in Boronia Street that may need to evacuate if this weather continues as they are in low-lying areas,” he said.
An all-clear was issued at midday.
Some homeowners in Coffs Harbour are sandbagging homes.
Jenny Snow in Coramba, north-west of Coffs Harbour, said her home got a lot of run-off during heavy rain.
“I am a bit nervous, but the trick is being prepared,” she said.
BOM senior meteorologist Adam Morgan said the flood warning for the Bellinger River continued.
“We are seeing an upper trough develop over the Coral Sea and that will come into towards south-east Queensland and NSW coast during Sunday and Monday, which is when we see another heavy burst of rain and it will be quite windy as well,” he said.