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Tourists rescued by helicopter from floodwaters

HAPPY campers: Five tourists rescued from floodwaters at Bungawalbyn. Photo: SES Richmond Tweed
HAPPY campers: Five tourists rescued from floodwaters at Bungawalbyn. Photo: SES Richmond Tweed

Safety tips *** Important and emergency contacts

 

UPDATE 1pm: STATE Emergency Service crews have been involved in at least two rescues this morning and people continue to try to drive through floodwaters.

The Woodburn SES was called to rescue five Japanese tourists by helicopter from the Bungawalbyn area.

Their car had been washed off the road, including all their possessions and passports.

The SES, local welfare services and Japanese embassy have been working together to assist the tourists.

Meanwhile the Ballina SES was called to Teven Road this morning to rescue a man who had attempted to drive through floodwaters.

Team leader Sam Marriott said it was frustrating that people ignored their warnings.

"It's incredibly dangerous, but people still do it," he said.

Ballina Shire Council workers begin the task of tearing down the storm-damaged roof at Pelican 181
Ballina Shire Council workers begin the task of tearing down the storm-damaged roof at Pelican 181

UPDATE 10am:  A CRANE is expected to arrive at Fawcett Park shortly to begin tearing down the roof of the Pelican 181 restaurant.

The roof of the riverfront building was extensively damaged in yesterday's extreme weather, which had winds of up to 160km/h recorded in Ballina.

The council's commercial services manager, Paul Tsikleas, said the roof would have to be completely removed and replaced.

However he said it was difficult to tell at this stage how much the repairs would cost.

"As well as the roof, there could be problems with the electrics in the building, and we can't tell yet what damage there is inside," he said.

Images from the storm today at Ballina.
Images from the storm today at Ballina.

UPDATE 7.30am: ESSENTIAL Energy has restored power to more than 13,000 customers overnight, however 20,000 remain without supply.

The main areas affected are Mullumbimby, Ewingsdale, Federal, Byron, Ballina, Angourie and Ulmarra in the Northern Rivers and customers in the Coffs Harbour local government area, Bellingen, Mylestrom, Grassy Head and around Kempsey.

Crews have been dispatched this morning, with extra teams brought in from neighbouring regions to assist with repairs.

"Flood waters and access remain our biggest challenge this morning but we will work as quickly as safety will allow to get the power back on. There will be some areas that will remain without power over the weekend - we hope to have more detailed information on where later today," the service stated on its Facebook page this morning.
 

RIVER LEVELS: Latest BOM flood warning, issued at 5.20am Saturday, predicts the Wilsons River at Lismore is expected to reach 7.2m around 9am and peak at 8.5m around 6pm.

Minor flooding continues at Bungawalbyn and at Coraki where the river is rising slowly.

Coraki is expected to peak around moderate flood level [5.0 metres] on Sunday [24/2/13].

Bungawalbyn  should reach moderate flood level 4.5 metres early Sunday morning [24/2/13].

 

UPDATE 8.20pm: THE Richmond-Tweed SES has issued a statement asking people to stay out of the Ballina CBD tonight.

The SES says there remains a lot of flash flooding and water backed up from drains across the roads.

"Power outages are making it difficult for people to move around the town," the statement says. "We are asking that you DO NOT drive through the water."

Driving through the water in the CBD created "bow waves" that then flooded into businesses and homes.

Extra Police would be patroling the Ballina CBD, the statement says.

Ellie Bullen sent in this photo of Jack Bracey and Alex Watson who got out into the streets of Alstonville this afternoon with their truck, a rope, and a hand saw to start cleaning up trees that had been knocked down in the storm. Nice one fellas.
Ellie Bullen sent in this photo of Jack Bracey and Alex Watson who got out into the streets of Alstonville this afternoon with their truck, a rope, and a hand saw to start cleaning up trees that had been knocked down in the storm. Nice one fellas.

UPDATE 5.45pm: THE Wilsons River at Lismore is expected to reach the "moderate" flood level of 7.5m by about 9pm tonight and could rise further still, the Bureau of Meteorology has said.

In its latest flood warning, the Bureau has elevated the rating for Lismore from "minor" to "minor to moderate".

As of 5.09pm, the Wilsons River at Lismore was sitting at 4.84m, above the minor flood level of 4.2m.

The Richmond River at Coraki was also still on its way up and was expected to reach 4m early tomorrow morning, causing minor flooding. At Bungawalbyn, it was expected to reach the minor flood level there of 3.6m late tonight.

A coastal wind warning remains in place with the Bureau saying winds could reach 50 knots between Cape Byron and Smoky Cape and the combined sea and swell could be up to seven metres. However, it also warns wind gusts could be up to 40% stronger than predicted and waves could be twice the height.

The latest severe weather warning forecasts more of the heavy rain, destructive winds and heavy surf the region has experienced through the day.

It says heavy rain was spread from Cape Byron to Taree this afternoon with thunderstorms. Wind gusts had reached up to 126km/h at Cape Byron, although there have been reports of winds gusting up to 160km/h at Ballina.

There have been reports from residents in Ballina of light hail and thunder and lightning around the Northern Rivers.

Flooding at the West Ballina BP
Flooding at the West Ballina BP Cale Lawlor

UPDATE 3.15pm: THE Ballina State Emergency Service says it has responded to 160 calls for help since 12.30pm.

Local controller Gerry Burnage said six members of the Broken Hill SES had been brought to Ballina in preparation for the storm and another crew was currently making its way down from Tweed Heads to help the Ballina unit.

There have been reports of trees over roads throughout the shire today.

Traffic was affected at Hill Street at East Ballina and on Kingsford Smith Drive at Ballina, with trees over the road and Ballina Shire Council crews working to remove them.

Fawcett Lane has been closed after the roof of Pelican 181 was blown off in the storm and will remain closed until the sheet metal can be secured.

Mr Burnage said a crew was being sent to River Street where there were reports of the Commonwealth Bank and Wigmore Arcade having suffered roof damage.

He said SES volunteers had to wait for winds to die down before they could inspect the roofs.

In Byron Shire, two roads have been damaged by landslips and a third is blocked by a tree as the region's afternoon of wild weather continues.

Byron Shire Council has reported slips at Possum Shoot Road and Coolamon Scenic Drive about 3km from Mullumbimby.

Mullumbimby Road outside the football field has a tree across it. Council crews are working on clearing all three roads.

Bangalow Children's Centre at Bangalow has called parents to collect their children early because the neighbouring creek is flooding. Byron High School has also asked parents to come and collect their children.

The new damage comes as a storm cell which has been pounding Ballina and Lennox Head heads inland towards Mullumbimby.

There is also a report of a tree having fallen across part of the Pacific Highway at Tyagerah and an inversion of Byron's infamous permanent traffic jam at Ewingsdale Road. The queue of cars is still there, but now it's pointed out of town instead of in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fawcett Park restaurant Pelican 181 has lost its roof.
Fawcett Park restaurant Pelican 181 has lost its roof.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE 2.30pm: THE extent of damage to the region's electricity network is becoming clear with Essential Energy revealing 14,000 of its customers between Ocean Shores and Port Macquarie are now without power.

In a statement, Essential Energy has said its crews were now "battling the elements" to restore power to lines damaged by falling trees.

"Early this afternoon, Essential Energy had around 100 customers without power at Ocean Shores, 1500 at Bangalow, 770 in the Federal and Eureka areas, 4500 in the Ballina area, 1300 in the Alstonville and Wardell areas, 2000 in the Yamba, Maclean, Angourie and Redcliff areas, 250 at Red Rock, 1000 at Mullaway, 2000 at Emerald Beach, 160 at Sapphire and 320 in the Orara Valley west of Coffs Harbour," the statement reads.

There were also properties without power around Lennox Head, Teven, and Goonellebah along with other places further south.'

Acting regional general manager North Coast, Daniel Bylsma said all available crews were working to restore power, but were facing exceptionally difficult conditions.

"Due to the wet and boggy ground and continuing torrential rain, access to the damage caused by the extreme weather is our biggest problem at the moment," Daniel said.

"In some places we are unable to use our elevated work platforms due to the high winds, while in other areas we will have to wait for the winds to die down before we can even use a ladder.

"Visibility is also extremely poor due to the driving rain, which we hope will ease in the next few hours."

Some properties were likely to remain without power overnight.

UPDATE 1.55pm: THE restaurant at Ballina's Fawcett Park, Pelican 181, has reportedly just lost its roof to the storm.

The restaurant has been closed for several months and nobody has been hurt in the incident.

There are also reports of damage to the stewards area of the Ballina race course and the town's Commonwealth Bank.

High winds buffet trees along the Richmond River at Ballina.
High winds buffet trees along the Richmond River at Ballina. Patrick Gorbunovs

UPDATE 1.15pm: THERE are reports that a number of schools in Ballina have gone into lockdown during today's extreme weather, and many buildings have been damaged during the cyclone-force winds.

Gusts of up more than 160km/h have been recorded in Ballina.

Marine Rescue Ballina commander, Norm Lannoy, also confirmed that the rescue organisation's tower at North Wall had been evacuated.

"It was shaking up there and it wasn't safe," he said.

"We've got winds of 80 knots - that's really heavy; that's cyclone stuff."

Trees are down across the shire, and many of the traffic lights in Ballina are currently not working.

A spokesperson for Essential Energy said about 4500 of its customers in east and west Ballina were currently without power.

Two major powerlines were out of commission after being hit by falling trees and branches.

However, the weather was so rough at the moment crews were unable to get to the lines to fix them, making it difficult to estimate how long it would take to repair them.

There are also reports parts of Byron were now without power, including the Cape Byron Steiner School.

Flash flooding has also affected roads throughout Ballina.

Burns Point Ferry is closed because of the extreme weather.  

Water encroaching on Terania Street in North Lismore.
Water encroaching on Terania Street in North Lismore. Cathy Adams

UPDATE 10.45am: THE low pressure system currently battering the Northern Rivers with wind and rain on its southward journey down the coast cut power to 270 Northern Rivers properties overnight.

Just as 115 homes regained power at Tintenbar an hour ago, 130 more lost power at Stoney Chute west of Nimbin.

Essential Energy crews had trouble accessing another outage at Doon Doon, south of Uki, where 25 houses lost power, but are now on scene.

Both outages at Tintenbar and Doon Doon were caused by fallen trees.

Essential Energy media officer Rachel Hussell said high winds forecast across the coast were a concern.

Wind gusts exceeding 90kmh were recorded at Cape Byron overnight, with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting storm force winds with gusts in excess of 100kmh south of Ballina.

If winds get too strong, crews are prevented from using bucket trucks to access power lines due to safety issues - the only option being to tie ladders to power poles.

"Sometimes we do need to use bucket trucks, so not being able to use them can hamper our access," Ms Hussell said.

"It's all business as usual for us on the weekend; if something happens tonight we've got crews ready and raring to go."

Meanwhile, the Wilsons River at Lismore has now reached the minor flood level of 4.2m and is still rising.

The State Emergency Service said the low pressure system causing rain and wind across the region was currently sitting off Tweed Heads, and expected to make landfall later today somewhere between the border and Coffs Harbour.

Most of the rain has now moved southwards and is sitting over Coffs Harbour.

Winds between 60km and 125km/h have now been forecast between Ballina and Kempsey, with heavy surf conditions likely to result in localized coastal erosion.

The SES received 124 calls for assistance overnight and this morning, mostly up in the Tweed Heads area. It has advised people to keep outdoor furniture tied down, move vehicles undercover, and keep clear of fallen powerlines and localised flood waters. 

Soggy ground was expected to increase the likelihood of falling trees. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE THAN A SPLASH: Lismore man Jake Smith checking out the height of the Wilsons River in the car park behind Lismore Transit Centre, off Magellan St, yesterday.
MORE THAN A SPLASH: Lismore man Jake Smith checking out the height of the Wilsons River in the car park behind Lismore Transit Centre, off Magellan St, yesterday. Jacklyn Wagner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE 8.30am, February 22: A FLOOD warning remains in place at Lismore as the Wilsons River creeps slowly towards the minor flood level of 4.2 metres.

Bureau of Meteorology figures show the Wilsons River had risen to 3.82m as of 7.56am today, up from a height of 3.44m 12 hours earlier.

In its latest flood warning, the bureau says the Wilsons is expected to pass the minor flood level later this morning.

The Richmond-Tweed State Emergency Service has warned Slater Creek may back up and flood Pitt St near the Richmond River Sports Oval at North Lismore.

At the same time, a flood watch remains in place for the Tweed, Brunswick, and Clarence valleys along with other river systems stretching down to the Hunter Valley.

The Bureau warns there is a 75% chance of flooding within these systems.

The bureau says the Tweed river faces the likelihood of minor flooding. The Brunswick river could have minor to moderate flooding. On the Richmond and Wilsons rivers, Lismore was expected to experience minor to moderate flooding while Coraki faced the prospect of moderate to major flooding.

The Clarence faces the prospect of  moderate flooding around Orara and moderate flooding at Grafton.

The Bureau's latest severe weather warning for the Northern Rivers says residents can expect heavy rain and damaging surf across the region.

Winds were likely to be a problem, with the expectation they could gust up to 100km/h over much of the Northern Rivers and up to 125km/h between Ballina and Kempsey today. The damaging winds were also likely to be a problem inland, gusting up to 100km/h on the Northern Tablelands.

Overnight, wind gusts were reported to have reached up to 94km/h at Cape Byron.

While the region was not officially in flood, the myroadinfo website was reporting more than 30 roads across the region were closed - although some of those were already closed after being damaged during ex-tropical cyclone Oswald a few weeks ago.

Drivers were being advised to be careful on more than 50 other roads, many of which have water on them or have suffered storm damage.

ABC Radio has reported several school bus services have been cancelled this morning and some schools, including Trinity Catholic College, Lismore, and St John's College, Woodlawn, have been closed because of the bad weather  

The Wilson River at the Rowing Club Carpark in Lismore starting to rise after heavy rainfall. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star
The Wilson River at the Rowing Club Carpark in Lismore starting to rise after heavy rainfall. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star Cathy Adams

UPDATE 3.30pm, February 21: THE Wilsons River at Lismore is expected to pass the minor flood level of 4.2m by 3am tomorrow morning, the Bureau of Meteorology has warned.

The Bureau upgraded its flood watch for the Wilsons River to a minor flood warning a few minutes ago.

The warning is in line with forecasts of heavy rain and strong winds which are now battering the region and expected to continue through the night.

In the warning, the bureau says 90mm of rain fell on the Northern Rivers during the 24 hours to 3pm. The intensity of the rain was increasing, which was expected to translate into moderate and possibly major flooding around the Wilsons and Richmond catchment.

However, it was also "uncertain" how much rain would fall, making it impossible to predict the ultimate flood peak.

Another warning was expected to be issued at 8pm.

UPDATE: 1.45pm: THE Northern Rivers remains on alert for flooding with the Bureau of Meteorology and State Emergency Service reinforcing weather warnings.

The SES has issued a statement pointing out there remains a 75% chance of moderate to major flooding in rivers and creeks in the Brunswick and Richmond/Wilsons river valleys.

That statement follows the Bureau late this morning re-issuing a severe weather warning for the Northern Rivers, including warnings of potential flash flooding and gale force winds.

The Bureau currently has several rivers listed as sitting below the minor flood level and classed as "steady".

The Wilsons River at Lismore was listed at 3.35m as of 12.56pm, comfortably below the minor flood level of 4.2m.

Over the previous 24 hours it had risen just over half a metre from 2.84m.

The Bureau has warned of increasing rain later this afternoon, intensifying further overnight as a tropical low approaches the coast.

Click here for roads information.

 

 

 

 

Rain Photo Peter Holt/ Daily Mercury
Rain Photo Peter Holt/ Daily Mercury Peter Holt

 

 

 

9.30am: A NEW severe weather warning and coastal waters wind warning has been issued for the Northern Rivers by the Bureau of Meteorology as the region prepares for a bucketing over the next couple of days.

The Bureau, which last night warned parts of the region could be hit by up to 300mm of rain over the coming days, has this morning warned the coastal strip could be hit by winds gusting up to 90km/h while heavy rain threatened flash flooding across the region.

The Bureau's Dimitri Danchuk has told ABC Radio the region could expect up to 150mm of rain over the next 24 hours.

Mr Danchuk said the low pressure system responsible for the rain was expected to cross the coast tomorrow.

"The Far North Coast is already experiencing winds up to gale force," he said. "Cape Byron, Yamba, Evans Head at some stage during the night have had winds up to gale force.

"It looks like for most of the day wind will be the main concern. The coastline could be battered by gale force winds for the whole day and probably those winds will spread further south as the day goes on.

"At this stage our expectation is that it will continue raining. Currently, showers are continuing on the coastal fringe. A little bit later in the day we will see showers become more persistent ... and extending further inland.

"We could accumulate 100-150mm from 9 O-clock this morning and during the next 24 hours. ...

"Closer to midnight and during the early hours on Friday it could be a little bit of a different story. The falls could become heavier. It will mark the low coming pretty close to the coast so at some stage very late today or during the early hours on Friday it will start raining heavier than ... we could see for most of the day.

"After the low crosses the coast ... the gale force winds will be pulled further south towards Coffs Harbour and the mid-North Coast and the rain is likely to become weaker."

The State Emergency Service advises people should:

  • Move vehicles under cover or away from trees.
  • Secure or put away loose items around your house, yard and balcony.
  • Keep clear of fallen power lines.
  • Don't drive, ride or walk through flood water.
  • Keep clear of creeks and storm drains.
  • If you are trapped by flash flooding, seek refuge in the highest available place and ring 000 if you need rescue.

Contacts and information:

STATE Emergency Service crews have been involved in at least two rescues this morning and people continue to try to drive through floodwaters.

 

The Woodburn SES was called to rescue five Japanese tourists by helicopter from the Bungawalbyn area.

 

Their car had been washed off the road, including all their possessions and passports.

 

The SES, local welfare services and Japanese embassy have been working together to assist the tourists.

 

Meanwhile the Ballina SES was called to Teven Road this morning to rescue a man who had attempted to drive through floodwaters.

 

Team leader Sam Marriott said it was frustrating that people ignored their warnings.

 

"It's incredibly dangerous, but people still do it," he said.

Topics:  editors picks, flood 2013, rescue, ses


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