Thousands could be evacuated as western Sydney residents forced to flee

The collision of two powerful weather systems over the east coast of NSW on Monday night may see more evacuations as western Sydney residents were forced to flee to higher ground on Sunday when floodwaters inundated their neighbourhoods.
The State Emergency Service ordered about 1000 residents from western Penrith, Jamisontown and Mulgoa to pack up and leave or face being trapped by rising floodwaters.

Dean Sewell/Sydney Morning Herald
Scenes from north western Sydney on Sunday as families evacuate.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned up to 4000 people could be displaced in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley over the next few days.

Almost 140 schools have closed, roads and bridges have been cut off, the Covid-19 vaccine rollout has been delayed in parts of Sydney and NSW because of the extreme weather, and supplies to supermarkets have also been impeded.

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Later on Sunday, Newcastle Airport also suspended flights because of flooding on the runway, warning the airfield could remain closed until Wednesday.

Berejiklian said parts of western Sydney are experiencing a one-in-50-year weather event. Various parts of the Hawkesbury-Nepean river network is causing concern as the Warragamba Dam which will see 75 per cent of its storage capacity flow into the catchment from the event continues to overflow.

Nick Moir/Sydney Morning Herald
Parts of north western Sydney are becoming inundated Hawkesbury River flooding.

What were going through now is different to what youve been through for the last 50 years, so please take it seriously, the Premier said on Sunday afternoon.

Its the sustained rainfall, the fact that weather event has settled in, its not moving on, and also, of course, the capacity of the [Warragamba Dam] spillover and what that might mean. Obviously when its a one-in-50-year event, in terms of the amount of rainfall, and the sustained rainfall, it has a huge impact.

Berejiklian said dam levels would have had to be reduced to about 20 or 25 per cent to account for the upcoming rainfall.

Emergency Services Minister David Elliott announced 16 national disaster declarations for communities throughout NSW had been signed off by his federal counterpart Minister David Littleproud.

From today (Sunday) we commence the recovery phase. So those national disaster declarations will mean that residents affected by these floodwaters can begin to receive that assistance, Elliott said.

Littleproud said the federal government has activated the Australian government disaster recovery payment and disaster recovery allowance to help those most affected.

The funding provides support for people who have suffered significant loss, including a severely damaged or destroyed home, serious injury, or the death of a family anggota that occurred as a direct result of the extreme weather.

Our first concern is for the safety and needs of those directly affected, particularly those whose homes have been inundated by floodwaters, Littleproud said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the severe storms and flooding throughout NSW were concerning.

I wish you every safety in these trying times, he said in a video posted to social media.

Morrison said further Commonwealth support was available to the NSW government whenever Berejiklian decides to seek it: We will stand there in support of them, as they need, through the defence forces and other agencies.

Nick Moir/Sydney Morning Herald
Flooding of Sydney's Hawkesbury River is expected to exceed that of the 1961 flood.

The support comes as the Bureau of Meteorology warned on Sunday the collision of two weather systems over NSW on Monday night and Tuesday morning could trigger further river rises.

Meteorologist Rob Taggart said the meeting of a low-pressure system from the north-west and a high-pressure system over the Tasman would create a last blast of rain and storms for the extreme weather event that would continue until Wednesday, and continue to affect people on floodplains, including in western Sydney, until the end of the week.

He said it would also cause further misery for residents of the Mid North Coast of NSW, who have already seen widespread damage, and urged people on the South Coast who are seeing levels of flood watch and warnings to be vigilant.

He said parts of Sydney could see another 150 millimetres of rainfall over the next 48 hours.

The average case is 100 millimetres widespread that will see river rises: The landscapes so saturated, any rainfall you get runs straight into the river.

The Hawkesbury River at Richmond could reach higher than 16 metres by Monday morning as the level of the Nepean River at Penrith surpassed 10 metres, higher than the 1961 flood event, on Sunday afternoon.

The SES issued an evacuation order for all properties within the area bounded by the Nepean, south of the Great Western Highway and west of Peach Tree Creek after 3pm, saying the Western Highway Evacuation Route would be cut by rising floodwaters, and they should gather their essentials and leave.

On the Mid North Coast, there is concern about the Hastings River, which was expected to peak at 7.5m at Wauchope late on Sunday night.

The town of Kendall, south of Port Macquarie, has registered 700mm of rain in four days.

Sydney Morning Herald

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