By GRAEME SINGLETON
THE Coffs Coast remained on flood alert late yesterday with more torrential rain expected to bear down on the region.
The heavens opened on Thursday and Friday morning with falls of more than 220 millimetres being recorded in some areas (See page 9).
The relentless downpours in the Bellinger, Nambucca and Orara catchments, coming after one of the wettest summers in years, forced rivers and streams to break their banks and inundate low-lying areas.
The Bellinger River peaked at 7.5 metres yesterday morning, swallowing Lavenders Bridge and cutting Bellingen in two.
Earlier on Friday morning the Waterfall Way was closed at Marx Hill, and east of Fernmount, isolating Bellingen from the coast.
By 2pm yesterday the river had fallen to 7.2 metres and was steady, but the State Emergency Service was still on high alert with the Bellinger River at Thora and the Never Never River at Gleniffer both still rising.
Bellingen's golf course was inundated although the floodwaters hadn't yesterday made their way into the Old Butter Factory where retailers had heeded earlier warnings and either removed stock or lifted it higher within their shops.
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Schools were hit hard by the flooding.
The Bellingen Public School was closed with not enough staff to supervise young children but the high school remained open, although only three of 700 pupils and seven staff showed up.
"It's very quiet here today ? not many pupils, but there are ducks in the carpark," school principal Bob Stockton said.
Student and teacher numbers were also down at Dorrigo High School while at Upper Orara, all the school's 60 students stayed home.
Until the threat of flooding in Bellingen subsides hospital patients needing a higher level of care will be transferred to Armidale Hospital rather than Coffs Harbour.
Area Health Service officer Chris Crawford said yesterday the area's disaster plan had been activated, which saw the area's disaster co-ordinator in close contact with ambulance and emergency services and local councils.
Mr Crawford said some Coffs Harbour Health Campus staff living in outlying areas, many in the Bellingen area, were unable to make it to work yesterday due to the flooding.