Flood watch: Coffs Harbour SES volunteer Ben Gosewisch loads sandbags for residents and businesses yesterday.
Flood watch: Coffs Harbour SES volunteer Ben Gosewisch loads sandbags for residents and businesses yesterday. Trevor Veale

Nervous Coffs locals grab sandbags

AS the North Coast bore the brunt of yesterday’s wild low-pressure system, many held fears a March 31-type inundation could be on its way.

Owners of low-lying property were quick to request sandbags from the State Emergency Service in Coffs Harbour as falls of well over 100mm were reported across the region.

Leaving a trail of destruction at Lennox Head via a tornado, heavy rain, hail and flash flooding, the low-pressure system moved slowly south throughout the day.

Tracked on the Bureau of Meteorology’s radar, it was centred off the coast of Wooli at 1.30pm, closing in on Coffs Harbour late yesterday, with further heavy downpours expected overnight.

Forecasters expect the low will centre on the Coffs Coast today, dumping sizeable falls before shifting offshore.

The bureau has warned there’s a 70 per cent chance of flooding along Coffs Creek and the Clarence, Orara, Bellinger and Nambucca rivers until Saturday.

SES Coffs Harbour local controller Bob White said a close eye was being kept on the water courses, however, a moderately dry start to winter has limited runoff from heavy rain.

“Because it has been quite dry in recent weeks, a lot of the rain is being soaked straight into the ground, that is good news as far as our catchments are concerned,” Mr White said.

“Even still there are a lot of nervous home and business owners out there who are taking the precaution of gathering sand bags in the event this system does bring torrential rain.

“If the heavier rains keep up today, then we have reason to be concerned, but for now will continue to monitor the situation.”

Unlike the March 31 downpour, which coincided with heavy seas and high tides, yesterday’s run-off was mostly carried out to sea by the run-out tide.

Flows in Coffs yesterday rose from 0.33 metres at noon to 0.47m at 4pm, while the creek mouth stood at a depth of 1.19m.

By comparison, the creek reached a height of 5.4m when it flooded last March, while in the second flood of 2009, on November 5, 500mm of rain fell in Coffs over 48 hours.

Levels in the Bellinger River at Bellingen (0.79m), the Kalang at Urunga (0.32m), and the Nambucca at Bowraville (0.71m) all remained steady late yesterday.



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