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Central West communities on high alert for major flooding similar to 2016 as river bursts its banks

Sunday November 14, 2021 - 05:08 AEDT
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SES volunteers from around Forbes are filling sandbags ahead of what's forecast to be major flooding in coming days. - ABC

A major flood warning is in place for the Central West New South Wales community of Forbes, threatening similar levels to the disastrous 2016 floods. 

Several days of rain and spills from Wyngala Dam have seen a large amount of water flowing along the Lachlan River.

Moderate flooding occurred on Saturday at Cowra, with the Lachlan River peaking at 12.64 metres at midnight.

Moderate to major warnings were issued on the nearby Belubula River at Canowindra and Nanami.

Forbes residents have been advised to prepare for flooding, with the Lachlan River at Iron Bridge expected to peak exceed the moderate flood level of 9.5 metres on Monday morning.

Further rises to 10.65 metres are also possible on Tuesday, with major flooding, similar to the September 2016 flood event.

Forbes Mayor Phyllis Miller said more manpower was needed to help the community prepare. 

"We need some volunteers at the SES today, more manpower," she said.

"[So] we can get those sandbags filled and delivered in preparedness for when the water hits."

Forbes a focus for SES

SES crews will continue sandbagging low-lying properties today in preparation for major flood levels from tomorrow evening.

SES spokesperson David Rankin said the service was focusing its efforts at Forbes.

"The Forbes community is certainly a focus of our operational response at the moment," he said.

"We're keeping a very close eye on the Lachlan River."

The Lachlan River runs through part of the town so floods are not unusual for the area.

The last major flood in Forbes was in 2016 when properties were inundated. 

It experienced similar conditions in 2012 and back in the '90s.

Heavy rain, which began on Thursday, has been exacerbated by larges spills of the now full Wyangala Dam, which sits at the top of the catchment.

It comes on top of already full river systems following a wet winter and spring. 

Road closures are expected and anyone with plans to travel to the region is urged to delay their trip. 

Mr Rankin said the impacts of the spills from Wyangala Dam are expected to be felt for the weeks ahead.

"This flooding won't go away in a couple of days," he said.

"We suspect it will probably be a significant issue in some of these communities for at least a couple of weeks."

The Bureau of Meteorology is also forecasting major flooding at the nearby Cottons Weir and Jemalong from tonight.

Meanwhile, the Lachlan River at Nanami is expected to exceed the major flood level this morning, with it likely to reach around 12.30 metres later this evening.

Upstream Cowra teeters on edge

Business owners at Cowra on the edge of the Lachlan River have watched the water rise closer and closer to their shops. 

Water swelled well past the river banks as it rose to more than 12.6 metres on Saturday. 

Paul Jones owns a motorcycle parts business which could be inundated if the levels rise just one more metre.

"We've been keeping an eye on it to make sure we don't have to go and sandbag and raise stuff off the floor," Mr Jones said. 

The shop was flooded in the '90s and he hoped that would never happen again. 

"Hopefully it's done with and we can relax a bit," he said. 

His son Sam enjoyed seeing a flood for the first time but has concerns for the damage it could do. 

"It's incredible how high it is but if it goes any higher it might not be incredible, it might be dangerous," he said. 

Farmers counting the cost

Cowra farmer Ed Fagan has lost a significant amount of his crops, including sunflowers, wheat and lucerne. 

"We've got a crop that we thought would do 10 tonne to the hectare that's now just a sea. 

"It's like a lake, you can't see anything on it," Mr Fagan said. 

He said the timing of the flood was out of the ordinary.

"To have one in November is unusual and that's a problem because we've got all the winter crop that we've spent all this money on to get it ready for harvest, a lot of that will be damaged," he said. 

"As far as the economics of it, this is a pretty bad event." 

He has major concerns for those further down the river. 

"Down there the inundation will be for longer," he said. 


© ABC 2021

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