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We got off lightly as storm system changed direction

Heavy rain and wind from ex-tropical cyclone Oswald made umbrellas a must-have accessory.
Heavy rain and wind from ex-tropical cyclone Oswald made umbrellas a must-have accessory.

THE Coffs Coast dodged a bullet as the super storm Oswald trekked inland, moving from its collision course with our catchment.

As the true extent of the damage continues to be assessed, the Coffs Coast has been included on the natural disaster area list by the State Government.

Even so, our region got off lightly.

After the ex-tropical cyclone inundated Queensland, all the weather predictions had the system "dumping major rainfall on Coffs Harbour".

"It was touch and go; we had NSW Police Rescue and NSW Ambulance

swift-water rescuers deployed to the region for five days as everyone thought we'd get the largest rainfall," said Coffs Harbour City SES local controller Bob White.

"Fortunately for us the system swung inland and inundated the catchment of the Clarence River, which is why Grafton faced the greatest flood threat.

"We were lucky.

"Coffs Creek peaked at 2.77 metres, which is no reason for concern.

"Only when the creek reaches four metres do we start to worry."

Coffs Harbour SES crews responded to 222 calls for assistance, most of which were fallen trees and sandbagging.

Ambulance Superintendent Keith Williams said specialist paramedics rescued a couple from a stranded car in a local caravan park.

Another floodwater rescue was performed in Bellingen yesterday after four people became trapped in a car on the north bank of the Bellinger River.

Much of Bellingen lost power early yesterday after a tree fell and struck power lines.

Electricity was restored about lunch time.

As the highest reported wind gusts of 65kmh hit Coffs on Monday about 8.30pm, trees were reported to have collapsed onto houses and caravans at Korora and West/ North Coffs.

Coffs Harbour topped the local rainfall figures - 438mm in the seven days to yesterday.

Mayor Denise Knight said the city's detention basins, flood mitigation and early flood-warning system stood up to the test.

"We knew it was coming and we were prepared for floods like those in 2009.

"We were overly prepared, which is a good thing," Cr Knight said.

"The only thing that has disturbed us was the big winds meant we had a lot of debris; we're really just cleaning up.

"(We) were prepared for big and we got moderate."

The weather bureau said Dorrigo recorded a total of 358mm of rain, Nambucca Heads 267mm and Woolgoolga 265mm.

Pounding waves up to seven metres in height continue to belt against the north wall of the marina, dislodging large concrete boulders and casting spray over the vessels of nervous sailors and boat owners.

Coffs Harbour City Council will today complete its damage assessment, working out exactly what it will cost to repair potholes on local roads, clearing inundated stormwater drains and fixing eroded beach accesses.

The Insurance Council of Australia has declared a "catastrophe" for coastal areas of New South Wales, from the Queensland border to the Illawarra.

ICA chief executive Rob Whelan said the NSW declaration would result in a taskforce being established to co-ordinate the industry's response to the emerging disaster.

"Claim numbers in NSW are modest, though we would expect to see an increase in inquiries to insurers' call centres over the next 24 to 48 hours as property owners assess any damage caused by the extreme weather," Mr Whelan said.

Topics:  ex-tropical cyclone oswald, flooding



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