An aerial photograph of the flooded Clarence River at Tabulam.
An aerial photograph of the flooded Clarence River at Tabulam. Contributed

Cyclones predicted

THE Northern Rivers’ main population centres might have dodged a bullet with this week’s floods, but the guns are still firing and will be for at least the next six months, mayors have warned.

As the Bureau of Meteorology yesterday cancelled its flood watch for the Richmond/Wilsons rivers, Tweed and Brunswick valleys, Lismore City mayor Jenny Dowell and Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham yesterday both said the region had been lucky to escape more serious flooding.

However, both pointed out the weather system behind floods that have this week devastated south-east Queensland and flooded western regions of the Northern Rivers along with large parts of the Clarence Valley council area, including Grafton, Maclean and Yamba, remained in place and could send flood-bringing rains back to the region at any time.

Cr Barham said, historically, major floods on the Northern Rivers had come in a “season of storms” and the Bureau of Meteorology was predicting three cyclones on the Northern Rivers between now and June.

Cr Dowell said the soaked catchment combined with continued wet weather expected over the next six months meant it was likely parts of the region that escaped serious flooding may yet be inundated. And she warned Lismore residents not to put too much faith in their flood levee.

“It bears reminding people that our levee and the levee in Grafton provides protection from nuisance floods, not massive floods like we have seen elsewhere,” she said.

West of the range, floodwaters were retreating from the region’s western communities.

The SES sounded the all-clear for Tabulam at 3pm yesterday and the Bruxner Highway between Casino and Tenterfield was fully opened about 5pm.

Urbenville residents yesterday afternoon found a crack in the moat surrounding their town when waters retreated enough to open one lane of Urben Street, leading to Woodenbong. However, they wouldn’t get much further. NSW Transport reported the Summerland Way was still cut between Grevillia and the border.

Bonalbo and Old Bonalbo were also cleared of floodwaters, leaving residents to start clearing the mud and debris that had built up on the bridges around the villages. However, individual properties, along with the small community of Ewingar, remained isolated.

Kyogle Shire mayor Ernie Bennett said the economic cost of the flood was not yet clear but, combined with the flood of two weeks ago, would have sent the area’s damage bill well beyond the $3 million mark.

To the south, the Clarence River was expected to come within a few centimetres of the top of the Grafton levee before it receded. Yamba was cut off by floodwaters and Ulmarra, Cowper and Brushgrove had been evacuated. The Pacific Highway remained cut on both sides of Grafton.