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Couple and their dog escape raging floodwaters in NSW, more heavy rain forecast

Friday November 12, 2021 - 00:01 AEDT
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Sydney couple Jan and John Elliott lost their caravan in floodwaters near Tamworth as wild weather lashes the state.  - ABC

A Sydney couple are "happy to be alive" after escaping with their dog from raging floodwaters in northern New South Wales, but the pair lost their caravan in the torrent.

Thecampground where they were staying at Bingara, north-west of Tamworth, had to be evacuated on Wednesday night when a thunderstorm hit.

Jan Elliott and her husband John were forced to climb out the window of the caravan when it became surrounded by "about 2 metres of very fast flowing water".

It was 1amwhen the nightmare unfolded and emergency services found them with 30 centimetres of water in the motor home.

"We couldn't get out of the door because the water was gushing so fast," Ms Elliott said.

"I actually thought I'd drown.

"I imagined we'd just bob away, go bob-bob-bobbing down the stream."

The pair left Sydney 10 days ago when regional travel restrictions lifted and are now homeless, with their caravan lost downstream.

"I'm just happy to be alive.It's just stuff."

They were not the only ones who had to escape from the park.

The State Emergency Service said 15 caravans had to be moved to safety.

"After dark, a flash flood event ? a thunderstorm, basically ? goes through and those people are forced to move with the assistance of the emergency services," SES deputy commissioner Daniel Austin said.

"We conducted four flood rescues in that particular scenario.

"It highlights that this is a fast moving event ? in places the risk is not just from long slow rainfall,but it's actually these sharp, short thunderstorms."

Wild weather, with heavy rainfall and strong winds, is continuing to impact parts of the state's west.

Orange received 77 millimetres of rainin 12 hours, making it the wettest 24-hour period in the city in nine years.

Harvest scramble

The rain has come at a bad time for farmers in the north-west trying to harvest broadacre crops.

Adrian Brown from Gravesend, between Warialda and Moree, said he had managed to reap some of his crop, but had to stop on Wednesday as the low pressure system moved in.

"We'll probably be pulled up for a while now," he said.

Mr Brown said he was concerned the rainfall would impact grain quality and yields.

"Especially in the barley ? a lot of it's already laying down," he said.

"We've got one crop that's nearly flat on the ground.

"We'll just have to sit and wait out today ? maybe a bit of office work."

Dams could spill

Many of the state's dams, which were almost empty during the drought, are now at or near capacity.

Wyangala Dam near Cowra is sitting at99.6 per cent.

Water NSW said it escalated releases in the days leading up to this rain event, but had now eased offso it did not exacerbate the flooding.

Spokesman Tony Webber said outflows would resume after any flooding had peaked to create more storage space.

"It's very much depending on the extent of the flooding, but inevitably if we are above 100 per cent at the dam ? and that seems to be likely ? there will need to be some operation to reduce that storage to at least full supply level," he said.

In the north, Keepit Dam near Gunnedah is at 96 per cent capacity and the severe weather is expected to impact the storage.

Water NSW increased its releases from more than 2,000 megalitres a day to more than 20,000this week.

"These releases are well below minor flood level," Mr Webber said.

"The intention is just to build some capacity in the storage to capture what we anticipate will be some fairly substantial inflows coming into that dam on the back of the bureau's forecast for some quite heavy rain."

Additional reporting by Hugh Hogan, Joanna Woodburn and Lara Webster


© ABC 2021

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