Sunday, 24 February 2013

Storms in New South Wales

Australia: Wild weather brings floods, 'mini tornadoes'



SMH,
24 February, 2013

A major storm system has left towns across eastern parts of the state battling floodwaters and triggered "mini tornadoes" that hit hundreds of homes across Sydney and the Illawarra region

The storms in the Sydney region affected mostly the eastern suburbs, damaging an RSL club, a primary school and ripping part of the roof of Fox Studios.


One resident of north Sydney's Kirribilli described seeing a "funnel cloud" that struck just after midnight, bringing down trees in the Willoughby Street area, damaging cars and ripping off the roof of the Kirribilli Sailing Club. The wind "sounded like a freight train," and the cloud was between 50-100m wide, the resident told Fairfax Media.


Damage to a waterfront property at Neutral Bay. Photo: Ben Rushton
Damage to a waterfront property at Neutral Bay. Photo: Ben Rushton
The Westpac Bank in Kirribilli was also damaged, with part of its roof wrapped around a telegraph pole.

‘‘At the moment the weather seems to have subsided and it’s the clean-up phase,’’ an SES spokeswoman said.

Flood warnings

Kirribilli resident Ian Kiernan Photo: Ben Rushton
Kirribilli resident Ian Kiernan Photo: Ben Rushton

Flood warnings from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) remain in place for 15 river systems across the state.


The Colo river, northwest of Sydney and a tributary of the Hawkesbury River, was predicted to rise to 10.7m today, a ‘‘near major flood level’’, according to the SES and BOM.


Other parts of the NSW North Coast, meanwhile, were battling major floods with roads cut and emergency services carrying out several dramatic rescues.


Wind damage at Chifley Public school. Photo Ben Rushton
Wind damage at Chifley Public school. Photo Ben Rushton


Kempsey, Grafton, Port Macquarie and some surrounding towns were all experiencing significant flooding and 37 communities were isolated, affecting 20,000 residents.


The rising waters claimed two lives over the weekend with 17 year-old Luke O’Neill dying after being sucked into a drainpipe on Friday night as he was collecting golf balls in waist-deep water in the town of Kew.


Early yesterday afternoon the body of a man was found in his submerged car on a flooded road at Mylneford, about 20km northwest of Grafton.


Harry Tran, Chifley resident pictured in one of the rooms in his house that lost its roof. Photo: Ben Rushton
Harry Tran, Chifley resident pictured in one of the rooms in his house that lost its roof. Photo: Ben Rushton


The Pacific Highway was closed in both directions between Grafton and Maclean and between Port Macquarie and Clybucca on Sunday morning but it had re-opened north of Macksville.


Worst over for Kempsey


A spokeswoman for the SES said the worst had passed at Kempsey this morning and water levels were starting to recede.


View of storm damage in Willoughby Street, Kirribilli . Photo by Sue Bennett
View of storm damage in Willoughby Street, Kirribilli . Photo by Sue Bennett


The Macleay River peaked at 7.1 metres at 6:30am inundating parts of the CBD but the damage was not as severe as expected, Becky Gollings said.


It looks like the water has certainly come through the CBD but it hasn’t inundated the whole town and the river is falling now,’’ she said.


In Port Macquarie, the Hastings River rose to its expected peak of 1.8 metres.


Waiting for taxi's outside the Beresford Hotel during the wild weather. Photo: Sam Scotting.
Waiting for taxi's outside the Beresford Hotel during the wild weather. Photo: Sam Scotting.


Sydney hit


The SES received 40 calls for help from people in Sydney's eastern suburbs of Malabar, Chifley and Randwick, which the spokesman says were the city's worst affected areas in the east.


Narellan in the south and Malabar in the southeast were also hard hit by torrential and winds gusting close to 100km/h, with minor flooding expected in the west today.


The roof of the Sydney Flying Squadron is badly damaged. Photo: Ben Rushton
The roof of the Sydney Flying Squadron at Kirribilli is badly damaged. Photo: Ben Rushton


The SES took about 85 calls for help from Narellan.


‘‘There was a retirement village out there where a number of the units had some minor roof damage,’’ the SES spokesman said.‘‘One home at least out there had some very extensive roof damage, with two bedrooms destroyed.’’
Further south 80 homes and a fire station were damaged at Kiama on the South Coast.


The clean-up underway in Kempsey. Source: MacLeay Argus Newspaper.
The clean-up underway in Kempsey. Source: MacLeay Argus Newspaper.

Rescues


Yesterday afternoon, a Westpac Lifesaver rescue helicopter flew a family of eight, including a newborn baby, to Port Macquarie from a farm cut off by floodwaters about 30km west of Wauchope.


The chopper was also diverted to rescue a woman trapped in her car by floodwaters.


An SES spokeswoman said seven people were airlifted today from a campsite on the Clyde River, west of Ulladulla, after being stranded by rising floodwaters.
Meanwhile, a man had to be rescued when his car was washed off a river crossing at Casino on Sunday night prompting police to beg motorists not to cross flooded rivers.


Two Japanese tourists had to be rescued when they became stranded in a car on a causeway near Lismore and a family of seven had to be winched to safety when they became stranded on the Clyde River in Ulladulla where they were camping.
About 100 train passengers on the Countrylink XPT service from Sydney to Casino were trapped for nearly 17 hours after fallen trees, floodwaters and a landslide stopped the train three times before it reached Coffs Harbour at midday yesterday.


In all the SES says its received 1200 calls for help, mainly from regions in northern New South Wales, Sydney and the Illawarra.


By Sunday morning, the SES had completed 59 flood rescues throughout eastern NSW and answered 9271 calls.


Electricity supplier Ausgrid earlier said about 17-thousand people were without power throughout the night in Sydney, the Central Coast and the Hunter regions.


Evacuations

Across the state, 19,600 people have been told to evacuate or to be prepared to if conditions worsen.


They are among 20,000 people isolated by floodwaters across NSW, as the storms that have claimed two lives continue to track south.

Grafton looks spared


Grafton itself appars to be safe but floodwaters in surrrounding areas are still dangerous. The town came within a few centimetres of flooding about three weeks ago when the remnants of ex-tropical cyclone swelled the Clarence River almost to the height of Grafton’s main levee.


This time the SES expects the river will peak about 1.5m below the danger mark.
‘‘No problems are anticipated,’’ the SES spokesman said.


At Taree the predicted flood level has been downgraded from 3.7m to 3.2m, but there will still be ‘‘quite extensive isolation downstream’’, he said.


Roads cut


The Pacific Highway has been cut by flooding between Grafton and Maclean.
The Transport Management Centre is advising vehicles to use Summerland Way and the Bruxner Highway instead.


Local residents in Maclean can still travel north to Ballina, and residents from Cowper Brushgrove and Tyndale can still access Grafton, the centre said.
The Pacific Highway also remains closed between Port Macquarie and Clybucca in both directions. There is access for local residents at Hastings River Drive, Port Macquarie, for those travelling north to Kempsey. Northbound traffic is being stopped at Kempsey Bridge.


Other major roads are affected by flooding are:
  • Oxley Highway is closed between Walcha and Wauchope
  • Waterfall Way is closed  between Bellingen and Dorrigo
  • Bangalow Road is closed between Lismore and Bexhill
Motorists are advised to avoid these areas and delay their travel, the centre said. The New England Highway can be used as an alternative route.
Illawarra roads blocked


The Illawarra Highway remains closed in both directions between the Princes Highway and Tongarra Road at Albion Park Rail due to flooding, the centre said in an update posted recently.


The Illawarra Highway is also closed in both directions on Macquarie Pass because of a fallen tree.


And the Bombo turn-off from the Princes Highway at Kiama is closed due to flooding as well, the centre said.


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