Weather As NSW mops up from floods, gale force winds hit
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As NSW mops up from floods, gale force winds hit

Woman's body found as floodwaters begin to recede

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Greater Sydney and surrounds are getting a dose of NSW’s wild weather, with damaging winds forecast for the state’s southern and central regions.

Heavy rain, winds and waves have battered much of NSW late on Thursday and into Friday, as residents from Lismore to the Lower Macleay in northern NSW remain under evacuation orders even as floodwaters recede in other areas.

Communities along the Richmond River on the NSW far-north coast were braced for major flooding. Floodwaters were expected to peak at Woodburn, south of Ballina, on Friday afternoon.

The NSW State Emergency Service has already received 550 calls for help and performed several rescues. On Friday it warned that floodwaters still posed a big threat.

Later in the day, however, it was forecast dangerous winds that caused most concern.

“With damaging wind gusts expected over the Snowy Mountains as well as the central and southern coast today and early Saturday morning, take the time to move cars undercover and away from trees and powerlines,” the SES said in a Facebook post.

The weather bureau has forecast gale and storm force winds for the Hunter, Sydney and Illawarra coastal areas for Friday. They are extended to the Macquarie, Batemans and Eden coasts on Saturday, before conditions ease on Sunday.

The Bureau of Meteorology warned of gusts of up to 100km/h near the coast south of about Taree on Friday and early Saturday.

“Strong winds averaging 50-60km/h with damaging wind gusts of around 90km/h may redevelop over parts of the Snowy Mountains this evening and extend through early Saturday morning,” it said.

“Saturated soil along areas of the east bring an increased risk of moderately gusty winds toppling trees and powerlines.”

BOM also warned of waves of up to nine metres in some coastal areas. Heavy swells forced Sydney transport authorities to shut down the Manly to Circular Quay ferry on Friday.

However, the rain that has battered the north for most of the week is easing, even as Lismore and Byron Bay reel from another round of flooding.

NSW Police on Thursday night found the body of a 55-year-old woman they believed was aged-care nurse Anita Brakel, who went missing in floodwaters south of Lismore three days ago.

Wilsons River at Lismore peaked at 11.4 metres, below expectations of 12 metres. By later on Friday, waters had fallen below the 10.6-metre height of the city’s levee.

In Lismore, the Rapid Relief Team charity was donating 30 truckloads of hay to farmers after flooded roads added hours to drivers’ journeys.

“Very, very devastating to come through Lismore and see what they’ve been through,” charity director Lester Sharples said.

“To see it again a second time, it’s gut-wrenching, really. It’s important to get these farmers back online.”

North Lismore resident and local Greens councillor Adam Guise said the town won’t go back to the way it was after this week’s second bout of floods.

“I think people are just in shock. I’m exhausted. I don’t know where to begin,” he said.

Cr Guise said mega dams and levees were not going to cut it.

“No hard engineering solution like that is going to solve climate-induced weather events like this,” he said.

He said the state and federal governments needed to push voluntary land swaps or buy backs for people living in flood plains.

“There are too many people devastated and incapable, both financially and emotionally, to do this again,” he said.

South of Lismore, Clarence Valley Council mayor Ian Tiley said the town had “dodged a bullet” after floodwaters threatened it a second time.

But even then parts of the region were underwater again and a $7 million repair bill from February’s floods was expected to balloon.

“We’ve got to go back to recovery mode again. We were in clean-up mode. It’s pretty debilitating, people are obviously feeling very depressed,” Cr Tiley said.

Victorian and South Australian SES teams are flying into flooded areas to help with rescue and recovery efforts.

-with AAP