As a volatile weather system circles offshore, the response from the NSW State Emergency Service (NSW SES) and the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has come under fire — with officials blaming the services for slow updates.
While heavy rains will ease across northern NSW today, a new weather warning has been issued further south.
Strong winds are being felt across the state with a gale warning issued for northern NSW, all the way to the south coast.
The BoM has also issued a harmful surf warning to people in parts of the Mid North Coast, Hunter, Metropolitan, Illawarra and South Coast Forecast Districts.
“Damaging surf along the central and southern coast of NSW developing Thursday afternoon. Abnormal high tides possible along parts of the Mid North Coast as of Thursday morning,” it said.
The sea is being swept up by a low-pressure system currently located about 280 kilometers north of NSW, while a slow-moving high-pressure system is located south of the Bight.
There are currently more than 20 flood warnings for river systems in place on the north and mid-north coasts, as far as Hawkesbury in Sydney, where a minor flood warning has been issued.
NSW SES has issued several evacuation orders for the Northern Rivers district and the Mid North Coast as a low pressure system slowly weakens.
The low-lying areas of Brushgrove and Cowper, Ulmarra and North Macksville have been on alert for the past 11 hours.
Residents watch in horror as the city is engulfed by floods
Lismore floods for the second time in weeks
Police have issued an urgent appeal for information as the search for a missing 55-year-old continues.
Anita Brakel was last seen in her car on Tuesday evening.
NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Joe Cassar said Ms Brakel, who originally lived in Nowra, had been recruited in Lismore as an aged care worker.
There is a major flood warning for both the Richmond and Wilsons Rivers, with a levee breach.
“The Wilsons River near Lismore (AHD) peaked at 11.40 meters on Wednesday, March 30 at 5 p.m. and is currently 10.99 meters high, descending slowly with major flooding,” said BoM.
“River levels along the Wilsons River at Lismore are likely to remain above levee height on Thursday morning with major flooding before declining further in the afternoon.”
It is the second time in a month that the city has been flooded, with February having a flood peak of more than 14 meters.
In total, the unit was ordered to deliver just under 100 requests for assistance, including flood evacuations, support and storm jobs.
Fire and Rescue NSW teams were also on hand to assist, assisting paramedics to reach an eight-year-old boy suffering from COVID-19 isolated by flooding in Bucca, north of Coffs Harbour.
However, the NSW SES response is now in the spotlight.
Residents in the city faced uncertainty yesterday morning as an evacuation order for the CBD was withdrawn and re-issued in the early hours.
“You can’t rely on the SES and the Bureau right now,” Lismore Mayor Steve Krieg told Ben Fordham.
Residents Ballina start cleaning up
Residents of Ballina have also criticized the lack of evacuation warnings when they woke up in an underwater city yesterday morning.
Marc Wilson, a longtime resident of Byron, told 9News that the flooding was “the worst I’ve ever seen.”
“We knew there was going to be a storm, but not so extreme that it was coming.
“Otherwise I’m sure a lot of these stores would have sandbags and a lot of prep if they knew it was going to be as bad as it was.”
The Ballina SES unit was inundated with requests yesterday amid extensive flash flooding – many homes and businesses are without power.
By 5 p.m. yesterday, they had received 169 requests for help “excluding flood rescues and unregistered evacuations.”
“This brings the total to 214 registered jobs in the past three days,” they wrote on Facebook.
“In the last 24 hours, 282mm of rain has fallen and the Richmond River peaked at 2.38m at 8.30am.
Ms Elliott previously called for the “urgent” establishment of evacuation centers in Ballina.
Streets and businesses were engulfed when landslides occurred as the coastal area was ravaged by rain.
The main road to and from the city was cut off as saturated watersheds lead to flash flooding.
Residents have now started the arduous task of cleaning up.