Friday, February 13, 2009

Record rain in Bourke, floods to hit

A record 200mm of rain has fallen in Bourke as the top end of NSW prepares for floods.

The weather bureau has issued a flood watch and a severe weather warning for the area, just days after flooding claimed lives and forced dozens of evacuations in Queensland.

Heavy falls are expected to continue over the central north of NSW on Saturday, followed by a deluge over the mid-north coast.

Bourke experienced the brunt of the storm conditions on Friday night with more than 200mm falling, causing flash flooding in the district, a State Emergency Service spokeswoman said.

But half of the calls made to the emergency service were from people in Sydney's metropolitan area, she said.

"We've had approximately 40 requests for assistance across the state," the spokeswoman told AAP.

"Approximately 20 of those came from the Sydney metropolitan area - they were related to trees down."

There were no injuries reported and no threats to property, but the worst is still to come, she said.

Heavy rain was expected to hit towns such as Walgett, while further south, Tamworth and Inverell could also be affected, the manager of the Bureau of Meteorology's Flood Warning Centre Gordon McKay said.

Heavy rain was also expected on Saturday and Sunday on the mid-north and north coasts, with the area between Coffs Harbour and Kempsey likely to see falls of 150-200mm.

"We expect over the weekend a low pressure cell to develop off the coast of northern NSW, and that's likely to lead to very heavy rainfalls," Mr McKay said.

Update Mon 16/2/09 from the Sydney Morning Herald lah...............

The heavy weather has also hit some parts of the state inland. Drought-ravaged Bourke woke on Saturday morning to find itself knee-deep in water.

Residents said a thunderstorm dropping hailstones as large as golf balls had swept in on Friday evening, followed by rain that did not let up for 12 hours.

The town got 200 millimetres of rain overnight - a third of its annual rainfall, and the biggest single fall any of the residents could remember.

"I think the previous record was about five inches [125 millimetres] in one go but this has well and truly superseded this " said a local SES controller, Stephen Walsh.

The mayor, Andrew Lewis, said it was a "one-in-120-year event".

Jonathan Roe, a reporter for the The Western Herald, said some children were swimming in the streets on Saturday morning. Other residents were out in their cars touring the flooded areas, and marvelling at the sight of parts of the town submerged.

The rain cut several major highways out of town and paradoxically left residents short of drinking water. Flooding had overwhelmed the pumps that extract the town water supply from the Darling River.

The SES was still working late yesterday to clear water from 25 houses.

Farmers had mixed responses to the downpour.

A cotton grower, Ian Cole, said some of his neighbours had suffered heavy damage to cotton crops, particularly from hail. Another reported that his 1500 sheep were now having to be extracted from " black mud".

But generally graziers were happy as the rain would mean good winter grasses for stock and a "flushing out" of the Upper Darling all the way down to the Menindee Lakes.

The weather left Bourke residents scratching their heads about what would come next.

"Floods up north, and bushfires in Victoria, and here we are in a massive drought and we get two-thirds of our annual rainfall in 12 hours," Mr Walsh said. "We hope we're not going to go without for the next 12 months."

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