Heavy rain lashing the NSW coast from the Illawarra to the mid-north coast has sparked flood warnings for multiple areas, including greater Sydney and the state’s far west.
The state’s premier, meanwhile, has encouraged all residents to stay at home over the weekend and avoid long-distance travel to the regions.
Overnight on Thursday, up to 100mm of rain fell across the regions, sparking more than 400 calls for help to the NSW State Emergency Service.
In the past 24 hours, SES crews have undertaken at least 11 flood rescues, three of which were in western Sydney.
Seven Oaks, north of Kempsey, copped more than 300mm in the 24 hours to 9 a.m. on Friday, while Aldavilla received 262 mm.
More heavy rain, thunderstorms and damaging winds are forecast on Friday and into the weekend, heightening the risk of flash flooding and hazardous surf and heavy swells.
Flood watch alerts have been issued for the mid-north coast, Hunter, Central Coast, Sydney metro and Illawarra coast and far west areas.
A number of rivers were under flood warnings on Friday morning including the Bellinger, Hastings, Orara, Manning, Gloucester and Nambucca rivers.
The Georges, Nepean and Hawkesbury rivers in the Sydney region are also expected to be affected.
NSW SES assistant commissioner Sean Kearns said drivers should reconsider their travel and avoid driving in flood waters, and admitted the service’s volunteers were preparing for a difficult weekend.
“We are responding as we get calls for assistance, we are putting warnings out to local communities. At this stage there is a flood watch for 23 river catchments,” Mr Kearns told the Nine Network on Friday.
Emergency services have warned conditions will remain dangerous and are telling motorists to take extreme care around flood warning areas.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Friday that NSW residents should avoid travelling long distances over the weekend.
“Normally we’re telling people to travel around NSW but this weekend is an exception,” she told reporters.
“We just want everybody to stay around and close to their homes, to be safe and to follow those messages. This weekend is going to be quite severe.”
The deluge is set to continue well into next week and could deliver the heaviest rainfall since February 2020, when greater Sydney was hit.
The mid-north coast copped the worst of the conditions on Thursday as a low-pressure system moved south to the Hunter, Illawarra and Sydney.
Catchments are already soaked but it won’t take much more for flooding to occur, the Bureau of Meteorology’s Agata Imielska said.
“It’s the difference between being inconveniently wet to conditions drastically changing to being dangerously wet,” the meteorologist said.
The bureau said the low-pressure system was a “significant system” bringing both rain and peak gusts of more than 90 km/h.
Towns likely to be affected include Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Woolgoolga, Sawtell, Bellingen and Dorrigo.
Inland NSW is also expected to get its share of the rain when a separate system moves in next week.