Regional NSW towns cut off by week-long deluge

On Wednesday morning, floodwaters began lapping at the basement door of Peter and Jane Hamshere’s Undercliff winery, just south of Wollombi in the Hunter region of New South Wales. Yango Creek’s usually pleasant bubbling stream had turned into a torrent overnight, and most of Hamshere’s vines remained submerged Thursday.

“We’ve had serious flooding before but nothing like this and we’ve been here for 20 years,” said Peter Hamshere, having spent the last 24 hours moving wine stock to higher ground.

“Unfortunately, we have some guests staying in our cabin this week and it looks like it’s going to be a pretty long stay, because no one can get out.”

Related: Baby with breathing difficulties rescued from NSW property cut off by flood waters

The week-long deluge in NSW that affected some 60,000 residents in Greater Western Sydney has continued to threaten communities further north as the low pressure system moves into the Hunter, Central Coast and Mid-North Coast.

More than 70 evacuation orders have been issued and 36 warnings remain in effect, though levels in the swollen Hawkesbury and Macquarie rivers appeared to be receding, or at least leveling off, Thursday night.

Hamshere admitted that there could be worse places to be stranded than in a warehouse. And this latest situation hasn’t been nearly as alarming as the wildfires that licked the nearby ridge of the property in 2020.

But even once the waters recede, gaining access to the nearby township of Wollombi, where the local pub remains submerged, could be an uncertain prospect. The bridge connecting his area to the town was still several meters under water on Thursday.

Veena Sharma, manager of the Roseval Caravan Park on the banks of the Hawkesbury River at Wiseman’s Ferry, said the park’s management and residents were ordered to evacuate on Monday.

“We’ve been told it’s probably going to be a few more days before we can get access to the property again,” Sharma said, comparing this week’s flooding to those that hit the region in March.

“People I’ve talked to say it’s worse than March flood levels, so if I leave for March, there’s probably going to be power lines and downed trees and debris and maybe even another sinkhole.

“The 88 cabins were covered in water up to the ceiling in March; we have been told that this time it is even further.”

Overnight on Wednesday, State Emergency Services carried out 50 flood rescues and two NSW lifeguards used an inflatable dinghy to rescue a baby experiencing breathing problems from a NSW property cut off by flood waters.

Singleton in the Hunter region was one of the hardest hit areas, with flooding from the Hunter River shutting down the New England Turnpike in both directions, cutting off the township of more than 20,000 people.

On Thursday morning, Singleton remained on high alert after the river peaked at 45 feet, but by afternoon the waters were receding.

The community of Bulga, 20 kilometers to the south, was isolated Thursday in what the Bureau of Meteorology described as the area’s worst flooding since 1952.

The town of Yarramalong, south of Newcastle on the New South Wales central coast, also remained isolated and reliant on emergency services for food and medicine deliveries after suffering its fourth flood in six months.

Related: Federal government promises $1,000 disaster payment for NSW flood victims as threat moves north

While not under an imminent threat of flooding, on the other side of the Blue Mountains, Dubbo residents woke up Thursday morning to a warning that their water was no longer safe to drink. The boil water alert included the communities of Firgrove, Wongarbon, Eumungerie, Ballimore, Mogriguy and Brocklehurst, and was expected to remain in effect for seven days.

Dubbo Mayor Mathew Dickerson said debris, including animal waste and carcasses, had caused the Macquarie River’s turbidity level to exceed safe standards on Wednesday night. On Thursday morning the levels remained unacceptably high.

“There is this very small chance of Cryptosporidium being in the water, so with that potential risk, we’ve had to tell people today that they have to boil their [drinking] Water. And that order will be in place for at least a week because even when we get to the point where we have solved the Cryptosporidium problem or the turbidity problem, we will have to empty the water from our reservoirs, which can take up to seven days.”

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