Worst flooding in decades continues for eastern Australia
The Australian government has declared a natural disaster across portions of New South Wales as torrential rainfall continues to inundate the region — and AccuWeather meteorologists warn that more heavy rain is on the way. More than 18,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes in New South Wales since heavy rainfall arrived late last week, according to CNN. As of Monday, there have been no reports of deaths due to the flooding, but NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott warned, “we are moving closer and closer to the inevitable fatality.” “Communities who were battered by the bushfires are now being battered by the floods and a deep drought prior to that. I don’t know any time in our state’s history where we’ve had these extreme weather conditions in such quick succession in the middle of a pandemic,” said NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE ACCUWEATHER APP During late 2019 and early 2020, AccuWeather estimated that bushfires across New South Wales and Victoria caused $110 billion in total damages and economic losses. The heavy rainfall across the region is causing delays in the delivery of coronavirus vaccines ahead of the rollout of the Phase 1B. However, according to Australia’s ABC News, the five metropolitan vaccination hubs in New South Wales remained open on Monday as the state moved into the next phase of vaccinations. The map shows the amount of rain that fell across New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory from Monday, March 15 to Sunday March 21, with some of the highest rainfall totals (blues and purples) occurring along the coast of New South Wales. (BOM) Justin Robinson, the national flood services manager at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, told CNN, “I’ve been a flood forecaster in the Bureau for 20 years and this is probably the worst flooding that I’ve experienced and have had to forecast.” According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, in excess of 400 mm (16 inches) of rain has fallen along the northern New South Wales coast during the last seven days. Port Macquarie is one area that has been hard hit with rainfall as totals reached 200-300 mm (8-12 inches) in just 24 hours from Friday into Saturday. Since Thursday, a total of 455 mm (17.9 inches) of rain has fallen. Water quickly collected in low-lying areas across the coastal town with reports of floodwaters reaching up to door handles in some locations. “This is nothing like we’ve seen since the 1960s,” said state Premier Gladys Berejiklian at a news conference over the weekend. According to CNN, for some of the hardest-hit areas this is a once-in-a-century flooding event. Across New South Wales on Monday, 174 schools closed due to flooding. #NSWFloods Before/after imagery showing the latest inundation in the Mid North Coast #NSW- #Taree – #PortMacquarie – Latest imagery this morning: 06:07:20 AEDT, 2021-03-20- Previous imagery: 06:06:55 AEDT, 2021-03-08- Image source: sentinel-1 @CopernicusEU @sentinel_hub pic.twitter.com/sdjjpDv520— BigData Earth (@BigDataEarth) March 20, 2021 Officials also warn that the excessive rain in recent days, and with more on the way, many dams across the region can come close to capacity with the potential for some to spill over. One such dam is the Warragamba, Sydney’s major storage supply, which was at 97.5% capacity on Friday. On Saturday, water began to spill over the top of the Warragamba Dam. On Sunday, the Warragamba Dam released about 500 gigaliters, according to WaterNSW. Officials stated that water will continue to be released from the dam at this rate or higher as rivers flowing into the dam continue to rise. Even with its current discharge level of approximately 500GL today, Warragamba Dam is doing exactly what it is designed to do, making for some spectacular images.To learn more about how Warragamba Dam operates during a flood event, visit https://t.co/ZsXJxiJAkn pic.twitter.com/5ZFpaxop5j— WaterNSW (@WaterNSW) March 21, 2021 Torrential rainfall will continue for some parts of New South Wales through Tuesday. Rainfall totals from Saturday through Tuesday are expected to reach 200-300 mm (8-12 inches) across a large portion of eastern New South Wales, with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 400 mm (156 inches). This is all in addition to the rain that fell late last week. This amount of rain can exacerbate flooding across the already hard-hit areas of southeastern Australia. Rising rivers can continue to cut off communities, create washouts and cause more dams to reach capacity. As rescue and recovery efforts continue through the end of the week, a drier pattern will emerge over New South Wales, allowing water levels to begin trending toward normal over the region. Heavy rain first arrived across Queensland in northeastern Australia earlier in the week. During a 24-hour period leading up to Wednesday morning, 550 mm (21.65 inches) of rain inundated the coastal community of Byfield, Queensland. Water level gauge for Retreat Creek as Sapphire shows the rapid 9-meter rise in water levels on Wednesday. The creek crested at 9.60 meters (31.50 feet) on Wednesday morning, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Farther inland, 216 mm (8.50 inches) of rain in 24 hours led to flash flooding in Sapphire, Queensland, when waters in Retreat Creek rose about 9 meters (nearly 30 feet) within a few hours early on Wednesday. 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