The Bureau of Meteorology is investigating whether parts of NSW were hit by a tornado or waterspout after areas experienced more than 200mm of rainfall in 24 hours.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) is investigating whether a tornado was responsible for the widespread damage in the Illawarra region of NSW’s south coast.
Over the weekend, the area was pelted with strong winds, rain and flooding. In the 24 hours to 7 p.m. on Saturday, areas were devastated with more than 200mm of rain, four times more than the 50mm average for the month of July.
On Sunday, 11:59 p.m., the Wollongong State Emergency Service (SES) unit received 224 requests for assistance, with the BOM issuing several severe weather warnings for the area.
The ABC reports that the BOM could not “completely” rule out the occurrence of a tornado or waterspout, which is a term given for a tornado that forms over a body of water. This comes after local storm chaser groups claimed the weather event saw roofs ripped off houses and a trampoline dislodged in a power line in the Wollongong suburbs of Bellambi and Corrimal.
“The radar images we had along with the time of the tornado reports will need a little more research,” forecaster Helen Reid said.
“But it seemed there was potential for additional circulation in what was happening at the time.
A landslide was also reported on Sunday in Berkeley, a suburb of Wollongong, after a tree slid down a street. Although no one was injured in the incident, images of the street showed a long road covered in mud, dirt and debris.
Meanwhile, federal emergency management secretary Murray Watt said he expected the state government to declare the weather a disaster.
This would give the NSW government more powers to implement guidelines to help affected areas. In particular, the police minister would be responsible for directing and coordinating the activities of all government agencies. The state would also gain additional access to federal emergency services and support.
“I’m not surprised to hear that people are at a breaking point,” he said.
“It’s clear that aid has been delivered, whether it be payments or mental health support, after past disasters in the region and I’m sure we will be very generous in our approach this time as well.”
‘Not a good sign:’ Residents brace themselves for horror for 48 hours
The SES has told flood-stricken residents they can expect another treacherous 24 to 48 hours, with the NSW SES deputy state commander saying the forecast of high winds and heavy rain was “not a good sign”.
Ashley Sullivan said this could allow rivers to rise at a higher rate “due to saturation levels in the ground.”
“That means things are happening faster, rivers are rising faster, evacuation orders and warnings are happening faster and more frequently than we expected,” the ABC reports.
“If we get the high winds, that’s going to be a big concern for the trees, the saturation levels in the soil. It doesn’t take a strong wind to knock them over, so think about where you park your car and, as I said, stay off the road if you don’t have to travel.”
Residents are also advised not to park under trees and to remove or tie up loose objects from the outdoor area.
With the East Coast Low making landfall Sunday evening, bringing rain, high winds and treacherous surf.
Sydney can expect up to 100mm of rain on Monday and Wollongong up to 150mm. Heavy falls are expected in Newcastle and the central coast as the system moves north.
The main message for Monday is to stay put if you can and if you see water – be it rivers, the sea or flooded roads – stay away.
“The next 24 hours will decide how high flooding peaks along the Hawkesbury River, such as around Richmond, where the water level has already risen significantly,” said Sky News Weather meteorologist Rob Sharp.
“And they can go way beyond that, depending on how much falls with this system.”
Rain is expected to continue through Monday with damaging gusts of wind that could knock down trees and power lines and cause property damage.
“The rain will then move a little further north along the coastline with heavy rainfall, possibly drifting towards Newcastle for a while,” said Mr Sharp.
Soggy conditions should start to ease by Tuesday as the East Coast Low clears.
But that still leaves an extremely wet Monday with up to 200mm of potential falling in isolated areas on top of what has already come down.
And in some areas, floods may not peak until after the rains have subsided, as all that extra water makes its way through the watersheds.
In addition, large dams, such as Warragamba, have spilled or may soon be spilled, increasing the risk of flooding.
Man dies in flood water
People in and around Sydney have been warned that the torrential rain being dumped on the city is a “life-threatening situation” and could see more fatalities Monday as a low-population area on the east coast.
A man died on Sunday after being swept away by flooding in the Parramatta River in the west of the city, prompting at least 140 rescues and 3,000 calls to the State Emergency Service (SES) for help.
As late as Sunday, 41 evacuation orders and 44 evacuation warnings were in effect in Sydney’s west, south-west and north-west, with more than 30,000 people forced to evacuate their homes.
That has only grown overnight with eight more evacuation orders issued by the SES, including for parts of Penrith, Emu Plains, Pitt Town and Yarramundi.
‘Life threatening situation’
Emergency Aid Minister Steph Cooke said on Sunday that the appalling weather has created a “life-threatening situation”.
“If you know your local community is prone to flooding, be prepared to evacuate at short notice.
“If you were safe in 2021, don’t assume you are safe tonight,” Ms Cooke said.
A series of full or partial evacuation orders have also been issued on Sunday and early Monday affecting parts or all of the following suburbs: Pleasure Point, Bents Basin area, Wallacia, Woronora, Camden, Pitt Town, Emu Plains, Emu Heights, Penrith , Moorebank, Yarramundi, Chipping Norton and Warwick Farm, Liverpool, Lansvale and Georges Hall.
A man died on Sunday after being pulled from a Sydney waterway.
Emergency services, including Polar, were at the Parramatta River at Abbotsford Parade in the interior of the town after reports were received that a boat had capsized and a man struggled in the water.
Despite the help of a member of the public, the kayaker died on the spot.
At 4am, the rain gauge at Holsworthy Barracks in southern Sydney had recorded 75mm of fresh rainfall since 9am on Sunday, on top of Saturday’s 167mm and nearly 100mm the day before.
Lucas Heights in southern Sydney added 70mm to the nearly 250mm from Saturday.
Albion Park, south of Wollongong, has now seen about 400mm of rain in three days.