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River towns Forbes and Cowra brace for flooding as dam spills

By Alex James, Jessica Clifford and Xanthe Gregory, Saturday November 13, 2021 - 12:59 AEDT
ABC image
Overflowing Wyangala Dam, near Cowra, has turned the Lachlan River into a wild stretch of whitewater. - ABC

Inland towns along a major New South Wales river are on alert for major flooding and a severe weather warning has been issued for the state's north-east.  


A low-pressure system has dumped more than 200 millimetres of rain in some areas since Thursday, and there are several flood warnings in place for at least the next few days. 


Water is spilling from the Wyangala Dam in the Lachlan Valley, turning the Lachlan River into seething whitewater surging towards Cowra and Forbes.


There's moderate flooding along the river in Cowra and the town is expecting a peak of more than 12 metres today.


The Bureau of Meteorology said its greatest concern was for Forbes, with major flooding expected tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday.


The water is expected to reach similar levels to 2016 when homes were flooded. 


Forbes Mayor Phyllis Miller said the town was prepared, but she urged people not to be complacent.


"We're bracing for major floods," she said.


SES acting southern zone commander Barry Griffiths said while the surge from Wyangala Dam had caused moderate flooding on the Lachlan River at Cowra, "it's going to produce a major flood in Forbes".


"We will see water moving through the township of Forbes," he said.


"Our advice is to start preparing for flooding right now.


"Flooding is going to come through town. There is time. You do have a lot of time to be able to prepare."


Major flooding levels are also expected at Nanami, Cottons Weir and Jemalong Weir in the next few days.


Multiple other minor flood warnings and flood watches are in place in NSW, with a severe weather warning for damaging winds in the north-east of the state and the potential for those winds and storms in the central and southern parts later today.


The Macquarie River at Bathurst peaked overnight with moderate flooding, but the river levels are falling, with minor flooding to continue.


Moderate flooding is occurring along the Belubula River at Canowindra. Eugowra is no longer a concern. 


There is a moderate flood watch for the Macintyre River at Boggabilla and Goondiwindi.


The bureau says major rainfall is not expected in these flood-affected areas in the coming days.


Forbes in the firing line


Bureau of Meteorology hydrologist Alex Clifton said Forbes would take the brunt of the water surging down the Lachlan River.


He said it was likely to hit the major flood level at 10.55m on Monday after exceeding the moderate flood level on Sunday morning. 


"We're expecting to see major flooding at Nanami, which is upstream of Forbes [on Saturday] and major flooding at Forbes and Cottons Weir from Sunday and Monday," Mr Clifton said.


"It is also important to understand it can be near that peak flood level up to a day before.


"The impact on Forbes town itself at the Iron Bridge there, we are expecting to see that from tomorrow [Sunday]." 


 


Councillor Miller said she was expecting conditions to be similar to the 2016 flood, which peaked at 10.65m.


"We're very prepared. We've started to have our meetings with all the services we need to," she said.


"Whatever people did to prepare for the 2016 flood, they should do that again now. 


"If we dodge a bullet, we dodge a bullet, but I don't know if we're going to this time." 


Councillor Miller said there was a helicopter on standby for rescues.


Forbes residents are encouraged to check the council website for local information 


Locals can stay up to date with local warnings at ABC Emergency. 


SES receives hundreds of calls for help


There have been about 12 flood rescues, including a young boy from a car in floodwater near Orange, and a man from the roof of his car at Stuart Town.


The State Emergency Service (SES) has received almost 300 calls in the past few days, mostly for help with fallen trees .


David Rankin from the SES said fallen trees had been an additional issue.


"When it rains it pours, literally. A lot of our volunteers have been out overnight assisting the community with trees that have come down," he said. 


Mr Rankin is urging the public to make "sensible decisions when they come across any flooded causeways and creeks".


"Don't drive your car through it, it's the easiest way to put yourself in a pretty significant amount of danger," he said.


"It puts our volunteers in danger when they have to come and rescue you. We want them to be safe when they're out on the job too.


"If it's flooded, forget it." 


Water rises quickly at Cowra 


Properties near the Lachlan and Belubula rivers from Canowindra to Cowra have been inundated. 


Canowindra farmer Boyd Thurgate has lost about 150 acres of lucerne and wheat to the water. 


For him, and many others, it could not have come at a worse time as harvest gets underway. 


"Yesterday afternoon it was on the rise and this morning we woke up and it was like an inland lake," Mr Thurgate said. 


The family is used to floods, with the Belubula River, currently at a moderate flooding level, running through the land. 


"They happen way too often, we're constantly re-instating fences, we get a lot of debris come down from upstream," he said. 







- ABC

© ABC 2021

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