The NSW Premier is urging residents to follow safety advice and avoid driving through flooding, after State Emergency Service volunteers had to rescue more than 30 people from dangerous waters overnight.
“We’ve seen over 100 flood rescues just in relation to the more recent floods (and) 34 overnight,” said Premier Dominic Perrottet on Saturday morning.
“Well that is way too high.
“Those rescues take place in the main because people aren’t following the instructions, they’re driving through floodwaters. Don’t do that. Follow the advice, that’s the best way to stay safe.”
More than 500 SES volunteers are on the ground, with almost 600 requests for help across NSW since lunchtime on Friday.
SES Assistant Commissioner Dean Storey says it has been a hectic 24 hours throughout the state but particularly in the Upper Hunter.
“That continues to be where our focus is today,” he told ABC TV on Saturday morning.
“Scone and Muswellbrook were affected by floodwaters over the last 24 hours and will continue to be to an extent today, with the focus shifting downstream.”
Rising waters all over
Flooding is on the cards in Singleton on Saturday evening and then at Maitland into Sunday, Mr Storey said.
However the statewide situation remains volatile, with numerous watches and warnings active following a month of heavy rainfall.
Areas of major concern include along the Namoi River at Gunnedah, in the state’s northeast, and the Castlereagh River around Molong in the central west.
“This is quite a large statewide flood risk at the moment,” Mr Storey said.
“We are urging all communities and those flood prone areas to be aware of the risk and monitor the local conditions and follow the advice.”
Sydney’s Warragamba Dam began spilling shortly after 9pm on Friday.
WaterNSW says the outflow volume could peak at a rate of about 60-80 gigalitres per day, just a fraction of levels in March that peaked at 500 gigalitres per day.
“On current projections the spill could continue for up to a week,” WaterNSW said in a statement on Saturday, adding “downstream impacts are likely”.
Rain backing off, risk remains
The Bureau of Meteorology said some areas of the state had been hit with more than 100mm of rain on Friday. The downpour was likely to ease over the weekend but the risk of flooding persists.
There were major flood warnings for the Peel River at Tamworth and the Namoi at Gunnedah, Boggabri, Narrabri, Bugilbone, Goangra and Wee Waa, where it’s feared residents could be cut off for more than a week.
Police say a Landcruiser was swept from a small causeway and carried 200m downstream by rising waters at Burrell Creek, west of Taree on Friday afternoon.
Two men waded in to rescue the 65-year-old trapped driver but also became stranded. The trio were eventually hauled to safety by five police officers who fashioned a lasso from a length of rope.
Hunter Valley police also dragged a 52-year-old man from a spillway at Muswellbrook after his Toyota Hilux was swept 400m away by the current on Friday evening.
An RFS helicopter was called in to rescue a man trapped on the roof of his car in floodwaters at Caroona on the northeastern Liverpool Plains earlier on Friday.
Mr Storey said it was a good time to stay off the roads.
The Oxley Highway is closed in both directions between Carroll and Gunnedah and the Kamilaroi Highway between Curlewis to Breeza.
At Muswellbrook, the New England Highway is closed in both directions.