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Some Forbes residents clear to return to their homes while major flooding still possible

Wednesday November 17, 2021 - 06:24 AEDT
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The Lachlan River is rising and spilling onto streets at Forbes. - ABC

The NSW State Emergency Service has given some residents a "partial all clear" to return to some parts of Forbes as major flooding eases on the Lachlan River.

The Bureau of Meteorology said a minor to major flood warning was in place on the Lachlan River at Nanami, Forbes, Cottons Weir, Jemalong, and downstream as at 3:56pm.

"River levels along the Lachlan River at Forbes Iron Bridge are rising slowly where river levels may peak near the major flood level today," the bureau said.

"This is just below the September 2016 flood level."

But the SES advised residents and businesses "to keep preparations in place" as more rain is forecast for the weekend.

"That rain may may contribute to increased flooding and river rises," it said.

The SES said areas listed as clear for residents to return to were:

Between Lake Forbes and Ooma Street

North Forbes and the CBD

North East of Forbes Railway

North of Newell Highway

West Forbes (west of Wambat Street)

Earlier, water was slowly creeping through the streets of Forbes in the central west of New South Wales as the town braced for the river to peak near the major flood level today.

About 2,000 people living in and around Forbes were ordered to evacuate yesterday.

The Lachlan River was originally set to climb to 10.65 metres later today, but BOM has downgraded the forecast to levels just below the 2016 flood and does not expect it to exceed 10.55m.

The bureau's hydrologist Justin Robinson said the conditions were different from major flooding five years ago.

"The water has moved downstream," he said.

"I think that every flood is really a little bit different."

Flooding at the Nanami gauge, upstream of the town, peaked at 12.45m on Monday night, higher than in 2016.

"It's slowed down a bit from what we were expecting," Mr Robinson said.

"Earlier in the week, we were pretty concerned. Up at Nanami, it was significantly higher than that 2016 level and obviously Forbes is the next town downstream."

No homes have been inundated and there were no flood rescues overnight, although a number of streets are closed.

Residents staying put

Plenty of residents have been determined to stay. 

Ellie Glasson rescued "Gonzo" the duckling from the floodwaters on Tuesday night. 

Ms Glasson said the duckling had been separated from its family during the floods.

"He lost his family so we picked him up and now he's staying with us," she said.

Ms Glasson said she named the duckling Gonzo "because he has a big nose."

Forbes resident Jim Cronin said he would evacuate if he lived in a low-lying area but did not expect flooding at his house.

"I think to get into my house it would have to be at least 10.85m or better," Mr Cronin said.

"Could get it in my shed but not in the house at this stage ? touch wood."

Denise Jobbard has lived in Forbes for 58 years and headed down to the river for "a sticky beak".

"[It's] inevitable we get flooded," she said.

"I'm not particularly worried ? [but] small businesses, farmers, we have to worry about their livelihood.

"That all impacts on the town."

State Emergency Services (SES) incident controller Barry Griffiths said the Forbes community was resilient and experienced with dealing with floods.

"I'm happy that we've provided the information to them to be able to make their own decisions," Mr Griffiths said.

"They've indicated to us that if they are going to leave, they've got their own triggers.

"If you direct people to do things with too firm a hand and you don't allow people to make their own decisions you can really kill community resilience."

Forbes Mayor Phyllis Miller has told the RN Breakfast that the SES needed a better tailored system of determining who should evacuate after emergency services expressed frustration over some people not following advice to leave.

"They've got volunteers that come to town that don't understand what the area is like so these kind of things happen," Cr Miller said.

"I've explained this to my community ? it's no one's fault. It's a system that we have to work under."

Students sent to safety

Hundreds of high school students have been evacuated from the Red Bend Catholic College, which sits on the edge of the Lachlan River, ahead of the flood peak. 

Principal Stephen Dwyer said the school had been shut to ensure every student remained safe. 

"We've had to look at detailed history of the past and the knowledge of what we need to do to prepare for this event," Mr Dwyer said. 

After almost an entire year of online learning, 140 boarders and hundreds of day students are back to distance education from home, or with friends in the region. 

"We're sort of used to floods out here, it's one of the events," he said. 

"[At] a country school you get used to different things whether it's droughts or floods." 

Year 12 students who are in the middle of their Higher School Certificate exams will sit them in an alternative venue in the town's CBD. 

"We're bound on three sides by the Lachlan River so it's a matter of making sure everything's secure, everyone's safe." 


© ABC 2021

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