A dozen people have been rescued from flood waters as further heavy rainfall and strong winds are expected along the east coast, and emergency crews prepare to assess property damage.
The New South Wales State Emergency Service conducted 12 flood rescues on Wednesday, spread across eight communities in the state’s south-east.
It responded to 1,056 calls statewide in the 24 hours to 5am Thursday morning, with 505 of these along the south coast region. There were 269 calls in the Sydney area, 158 in the Hunter and mid north coast and 94 in the wider Riverina.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said thunderstorms were possible across the south-east and central east of NSW on Thursday afternoon and evening, including Sydney and Canberra.
There was the possibility of thunderstorms in the south-east becoming severe, with a risk of flash flooding.
On Wednesday the town of Deniliquin had been “effectively cut off” due to flood waters.
Some 135mm of rain hit the town over a 24-hour period, its wettest day in any month for 145 years, and its second-highest daily rainfall on record in any month in records going back to 1858.
Other parts of the south coast including Sassafras, Moruya and Jervis Bay were hit by more than 200mm of rain, leading to localised flash flooding.
The SES warned that further heavy rainfall and strong winds were expected along the south coast on Thursday morning.
The BoM said flash flooding was expected, with six-hourly rainfall totals of 60mm to 100mm likely and isolated falls of 150mm possible.
“The low sitting off the far south coast is expected to hit land mid-morning, bringing with it a renewed risk of moderate flooding in the Bega region,” the BoM said.
The Bega River peaked at 6.35m at 8.30pm on Wednesday. The BoM warned that the river may reach the moderate flood level of 7m by the afternoon.
Rapid impact assessment teams were set to assess 40 properties at Lake Conjola. Early on Thursday morning crews rescued two people and their dog from the flood waters.
A paw-sitive outcome for the two people and pooch rescued in Lake Conjola this morning! 🚤
"We can't thank you enough for getting us out. With the flood waters rising well over a metre, we don't know how we would have gotten out without the dedicated volunteers from the SES." pic.twitter.com/QcoqtP8Na9
— NSW SES (@NSWSES) November 29, 2023
A watch and act warning, urging people not to enter flood waters, remained in place for Lake Conjola and the Bega River.
SES teams would also assess impacted properties at Deniliquin on Thursday. There were some evacuations on Wednesday, including a property at Wrights Beach.
Moving to Victoria, a severe weather warning for heavy rainfall and damaging winds was issued for Gippsland.
There were four watch and act flood alerts in place for the Gippsland region on Thursday afternoon, warning people to move to higher ground amid potential minor to moderate flooding.
The warnings included the Genoa River, Bemm River, Cann River and the Thomson River to Cowwarr Weir.
Victorian SES crews responded to more than 650 requests for assistance.
Meanwhile, the BoM said thunderstorms were possible for much of central, northern and western Queensland on Thursday, throughout the afternoon and evening. Severe thunderstorms were not expected.
Miriam Bradbury, a BoM meteorologist, said a low-pressure trough and low-pressure system had worked together to draw moisture from the northern tropics, creating a thunderstorm risk for “most of the east coast” on Wednesday.
Fire and Rescue NSW said it had deployed five “in-water” strike teams to the south coast amid the heavy rainfall. The teams included 20 highly trained firefighters and two team leaders, who would be working in Ulladulla, Batemans Bay, Moruya, Bega and Eden.
“For the first time, FRNSW is deploying specially trained on-call and regional firefighters to work alongside metropolitan-based firefighters in the flood zones, with many of them living in, or close to, the towns they will be supporting,” a statement said.
The FRNSW commissioner, Jeremy Fewtrell, said affected communities should feel reassured, with these teams highly skilled at “in-water” rescues.
Southeast NSW has copped a drenching over the last 24 hours, with parts of the South Coast and Illawarra receiving more than 200 mm. Based on annual exceedance probability (AEP), Porters Creek Dam's 351 mm in 24 hours was 1-in-100 to 1-in-200 year event. pic.twitter.com/TcyL7zgHIi
— Ben Domensino (@Ben_Domensino) November 29, 2023
The widespread wet weather conditions have come while Australia is in an El Niño climate pattern – which typically signals below-average rain and above-average daytime temperatures.
Bradbury said it “does feel like a bit of a switch-up” but added that major rain events were not uncommon for the east coast during El Niño, especially during November and December.
Earlier in the week wild storms downed trees, flooded streets and damaged some homes in Adelaide, which recorded its wettest November day since 2005.
The NSW SES was urging people to assess conditions before travelling on the roads, and not to walk, ride or drive through flood waters.