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Concerns are growing for the future of Byron Bay as destructive flash flooding continues to wreak havoc in the popular holiday town.
The flood emergency continues to unravel across northern NSW with residents rushing to salvage anything they can in the famous tourist town.
The weather event has dumped up to 400mm of rain within a 24-hour period on the region, with floodwaters engulfing entire homes and businesses on Wednesday morning.
Terrifying footage of Byron’s CBD shows waist-deep brown water spilling into cafes, chemists and popular restaurants usually packed with holidaymakers.
While the area is known to be flood-prone, residents and business owners were caught off guard when the giant rain bomb erupted over the town.
Concerns are growing for the future of Byron Bay as destructive flash flooding continues to wreak havoc in the popular holiday town (pictured, people walk through floods on Wednesday)
Terrifying footage of Byron’s CBD shows waist-deep brown water spilling into cafes, chemists and popular restaurants usually packed with holidaymakers (stock image of Byron Bay)
Locals are angry the NSW State Emergency Service (SES) didn’t notify them of the worsening conditions or appropriately prepare for the catastrophic weather event.
The BoM issued severe weather warnings in the lead-up to the flooding, but residents in Ballina remain frustrated there were no evacuation notices.
The SES gave residents no warning flash flooding could occur in the area with evacuation centres only made available to stranded locals a few hours after the city centre flooded.
Jonson Street, a popular main road in Byron’s CBD, has been completely inundated as residents flee the area known to many as coastal paradise.
Power remains out in the CBD as clean-up efforts begin with entire homes being swallowed by floodwaters in the nearby Hinterlands and Suffolk Park.
Byron Bay is known to many as a piece of coastal paradise (pictured in 2014) but it is prone to flooding
The flood emergency continues to unravel across northern NSW with weary residents rushing to salvage anything they can in the famous tourist town (pictured, floods in Byron’s CBD)
NSW State Minister for Emergency Services Steph Cooke said her ‘worst fear had been realised’ and that 3,600 houses were without power in the region.
‘Unfortunately overnight, our worst fears have been realised with significantly heavy rainfall across already saturated landscapes, particularly across the Northern Rivers region and the Mid North Coast,’ she said on Wednesday.
Byron Bay’s former Mayor, Simon Richardson, said the town’s fate had been sealed by poor city planning 100 years ago and cast doubts on Byron Bay’s future.
‘It’s actually below the waterline in a wetlands – you wouldn’t build a town there now for quids,’ he told the Guardian. ‘The water gets captured in Byron like in a wok.’
He said the local council had repaired damaged roads knowing they wouldn’t endure another flood emergency.
‘Because we wouldn’t have been funded by the state government if we improved the roads and made them more resilient,’ Mr Richardson said.
Jonson Street, a popular main road in Byron’s CBD, (pictured) has been completely inundated as residents flee the area known to many as coastal paradise
Cafes, pubs, chemists, banks and restaurants have been inundated with floodwaters in Byron and nearby Lismore as thousands are evacuated from their homes
Ballina’s current mayor Sharon Cadwallader said it had been a ‘wild night’ of rain and that flash flooding had cut off roads in and out of the town.
Acting NSW Premier Paul Toole said ‘no one could have predicted’ the torrential rain that triggered the floods.
‘Over the past 24 hours we’ve seen torrential rainfall that is continuing to land in the Northern Rivers area,’ he said on Wednesday.
‘This has landed in an area that is already saturated from recent rainfall. This has been an extremely difficult time for these communities.’
In welcome news for Byron Bay, heavy rain is set to ease on Thursday after the area was pounded the area with 300mm in just 24 hours.
Authorities will turn their attention to instead battling strong winds and landslides with fears trees in saturated ground could be unearthed.
Floodwaters inundate a road in Lismore where swathes of residents have been forced to evacuate their homes for the second time in a month
Forecaster Jackson Browne from the Bureau of Meteorology said weather conditions would improve on the weekend and bring some reprieve from the heavy rain (pictured, Ballina)
Forecaster Jackson Browne from the Bureau of Meteorology said weather conditions would improve on the weekend and bring some reprieve from the heavy rain.
He said the low pressure system was moving southward to Gippsland and South Hunter where there was a slight chance of rain over the next few days.
‘The rainfall has eased more offshore and there’s quite a bit of southerly wind on the western side of the low,’ the meteorologist told Daily Mail Australia.
‘It will bring showers and possibly some storms to the weekend for the area, but nothing like the magnitude of the rainfall we’ve seen on the east coast.’
Mr Browne explained that with colder air masses there was usually less rain, meaning forecasters weren’t so concerned about flood potential in southern NSW.
Meanwhile 50km southwest in Lismore, fears are growing for a woman who went missing in floodwaters after the area was overwhelmed with heavy rain.
Ballina’s current mayor Sharon Cadwallader said it had been a ‘wild night’ of rain and that flash flooding had cut off roads in and out of the town
Fears for missing Lismore woman as search enters second day
A woman is believed to be missing in floodwaters in Lismore, after the regional city had its levee breached for the second time in weeks.
The Wilsons River peaked above 10.65 metres on Wednesday, with floodwaters and mud spilling into the city centre.
A search operation is underway after emergency services were told a woman had become trapped in her vehicle in floodwaters at Monaltrie, south of Lismore, about 9.50pm on Tuesday.
Officers said they spent several hours looking for the woman and her vehicle but neither were found.
A multi-agency search is now underway, as Police Rescue, Water Police and the NSW SES hunt for the woman’s white Holden Captiva station wagon.
The Wilsons River breached its 10.6-metre levee at 9am on Wednesday – sending floodwaters flowing through city streets for the second time in a month.
Floodwaters rose to 14.4m in Lismore only weeks ago.
To add to anxieties, Lismore’s local flood siren – which is supposed to trigger when the levee is breached – malfunctioned and failed to send out warnings across the regional city of 27,000 people.
Thousands of residents in the Northern Rivers region and the Mid North Coast remain unable to return to their homes on Thursday.
Twenty evacuation orders remain in place in both regions with the NSW minister for emergency services warning of a tough 24 to 36 hours ahead on Wednesday.
Lismore’s Mayor Steve Krieg confirmed locals were turning to Facebook for information, describing the flooding as ‘unprecedented’.
‘You can’t rely on the SES or the Bureau at the moment,’ he told 2GB’s Ben Fordham.
A map showing the torrential rain hitting the areas of Lismore, Byron Bay, Ballina and Mullumbimby on Wednesday (pictured)
In welcome news for Byron Bay, (pictured) heavy rain is set to ease on Thursday after the area was pounded the area with 300mm in just 24 hours
Just after 9am on Wednesday morning local MP Justine Elliot announced the Wilsons River had breached the levee.
‘Sirens will not sound – there is a malfunction. You must get out now,’ Ms Elliot said.
On Wednesday morning a caravan was seen floating down the Lismore CBD while office rooms in Byron Bay were under a metre of water.
The damage is being done by a low pressure system sitting off the NSW coast that will bring showers in the coming days including to Sydney, the Bureau of Meteorology’s Jonathan How said.
‘As the system moves south it will become windy across the state’s eastern coastline, becoming strongest on Friday with the potential to bring down trees and power lines, he said.
‘Thankfully though, this rain event won’t be quite as long-lasting as the previous rain event so we will see conditions really ease towards the latter part of the week.’
More than 527.4mm of rain has now been recorded this month, marking the wettest March in history with two days to spare.
The Wilsons River near Lismore (pictured) breached its 10.6-metre levee at 9am on Wednesday – sending floodwaters flowing through city streets for the second time in a month
Fears are growing for a woman who went missing in floodwaters after the area was overwhelmed with heavy rain (pictured, floodwaters rise again in Lismore on Tuesday)