With strong winds of up to 100 kmh, the storms downed trees and left as many as 200,000 homes without power.
The storms also dumped over 300 mm of rain in some areas in a short period, resulting in raging flash floods across Sydney, Newcastle, Hunter Valley and surrounding areas.
NSW Premier Mike Baird is asking people to be patient as emergency crews deal with life-threatening situations. He also urged people to start to head home from work, with weather conditions expected to worsen.
One of the worst affected towns is Dungog, where at least 3 people are thought to have died, with further reports of another person still missing. Australia Bureau of Meteorology say that 312 mm of rain has fallen in Dungog in the last 24 hours.
Emergency services minister David Elliott described it as a “once in a decade” storm. NSW emergency crews carried out around 50 flood rescues. At least 10 people had to be airlifted from roofs by helicopter after they took refuge from the floods in Stroud, near Newcastle.
Dungog, New South Wales
Dungog is a small town of around 2,000 in habitants, located in the Hunter region about 70 km from Newcastle and 250 km from Sydney. The streets of the town were turned into raging rivers in a matter of hours by the heavy rain brought by the storm. One local observer said that the flood water came from nowhere, and rose so quickly it was like a roar, rushing through the streets.
Several people were rescued by helicopter after they took refuge on the roofs of their homes. SES also reported that a school bus was swept away by the floods near the town. Later reports said there were no children on board and the drive was successfully rescued.
Residents of Dungog have been ordered to evacuate the area and either stay with friends or relatives outside the flood zone, or at an evacuation centre set up in a local school.
The town has suffered widespread damage. The torrent was so strong that several houses were dragged from their foundations and swept away by flood water. The video clip below was filmed by a local resident.
Australian Bureau of Meteorology have issued flood warnings for the following rivers and water bodies in New South Wales:
Hawkesbury and Nepean Rivers
Wyong River and Tuggerah Lake
Paterson and Williams Rivers
Flood Safety Advice and Support Centre
New South Wales State Emergency Service issued flood safety advice for residents in the flood hit areas. In their statement issued at 16:00 local time, they said,
“Expect rapid rises and high velocity flash flood water in local creeks, watercourses and urban areas over the next few hours.
Due to forecast heavy rain, Residents in Newcastle and surrounding urban areas may experience flash flooding and a rapid rise and high flow velocities in local watercourses.
Do not enter floodwater.
If you become trapped you should seek the highest point within the building and to telephone 000 if you require rescue.”
For more safety advice, see the NSW SES website here.
The Public Information and Inquiry Centre has been activated to support the current severe weather response in New South Wales.
Members of the public can contact the Public Information and Inquiry Centre (PIIC) on 1800 227 228, regarding information on the flood and storm operation across New South Wales.
Additional information in relation to the flood and severe weather warnings can be viewed on www.emergency.nsw.gov.au.
Australian Bureau of Meteorology say that since 09:00 yesterday, 312mm of rain has fallen at Dungog, 259mm Crawford, 176mm Wallsend, and 171mm Wahroonga.
Below are the rainfall figures from WMO for affected parts of New South Wales during a 24 hour period between 20 and 21 April 2015.
Prospect Dam 100.2 mm
Homebush 137.2 mm
Parramatta – 130.0 mm
Tocal – 242.6 mm
Newcastle – 99.2 mm
Sydney – 119.4 mm
Canterbury – 123.0 mm
Katoomba – 142.0 mm