New South Wales’s efforts to recover from the devastating February floods have been halted, as sudden heavy rainfall yet again overwhelmed the City of Lismore.
Lismore Mayor, Steve Krieg, spoke to the Today show on the morning of the 31 March, and said the Lismore CBD was inundated with water, yet again, as the Wilson River overflowed the town levee for the second time in a month.
The heavy rainfall created another flooding emergency just as the region was beginning to recover from the devastating floods in late February.
Mayor Krieg also spoke to the Guardian, calling the rain “a major, major weather event”.
“This would be one of the top three floods in Lismore’s history if it wasn’t for four weeks ago. It’s sort of a surreal situation after what we have lived through,” Mayor Krieg said.
The New South Wales State Emergency Service (SES) initially told Lismore residents they could return to their homes in the evening of 29 March but as the rainfall continued, changed the orders to evacuate the CBD immediately.
At 3am on 30 March, New South Wales SES told residents that flash flooding in the CBD as a result of heavy rainfall had inundated roads, and that residents should evacuate before it would be too unsafe to leave.
Speaking to the ABC, the New South Wales SES stood by its decision to retract the evacuation orders across the Northern Rivers, which were announced on 29 March 2022, only to reissue the evacuation in the early hours of the morning the next day.
SES New South Wales Acting Commissioner, Daniel Austin, said, “Based on the conditions that we saw, we did release the evacuation order for Lismore, based on the local consultation that we undertook, and also the advice on the weather conditions that were coming.
“That advice was the right advice to enable the community to try to restore and work through its recovery process.
“Some hours later, we then saw a significant thunderstorm form over the Lismore area, which led to that extreme flash flooding event.”
Speaking to the Guardian, General Manager of the Koori Mail, Noami Moran, said there were no updates on evacuation orders, “even though Lismore was pretty much in the middle of a cyclone, so when the SES did send out the update, it came suddenly.”
“There was a massive gap in communication with the SES, which is where the Lismore City Council gets their feed. So yeah, people are not happy. I’ll tell you that much,” Ms Moran said.
Despite the confusion from the SES evacuation orders, Lismore Council continued to provide updates over social media, warning residents to evacuate the CBD and not drive through flood waters.