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Four-year-old and parents 'lucky' to be alive

Lismore unit SES with the NSW SES helicopter, pictured on Saturday during a massive storm event.
Lismore unit SES with the NSW SES helicopter, pictured on Saturday during a massive storm event.

UPDATE SUNDAY:

MORE SUNDAY WEATHER AND ROAD UPDATES: Thunderstorms after 1800 lightning strikes in 24-hours

THE Pacific Highway has reopened to traffic in both directions between Ballina and Grafton after flooding. 

UPDATE 4.30pm: 

SES public information officer Ian Leckie said emergency services expect the Pacific Highway from Ballina and Grafton near New Italy to be flood affected until midnight tonight.

Twelve SES rescues have taken place on the highway and in surrounding areas today, including one helicopter rescue of two parents and their four-year-old child at about 3.15pm.

The family were lucky to have survived, trapped in their vehicle in waist-deep waters on Glencoe Rd, west of Tabbimoble, for at least half an hour while emergency crews on land and in the air frantically tried to locate them.

"They're extraordinarily lucky, it took us sometime to find them, we had an air search up and a grid search, they're very fortunate people," Mr Leckie said.

"We always say if it's flooded forget it. We're saying now: do you still want to see your family again tomorrow? Think again before driving into flood waters."

Heavy rains are expected to continue, with Woodburn copping 389 mls from 2am to 1.30pm today, which was "outrageous", Mr Leckie said.  

"This is a massive, ongoing rainfall event, with over 600 mls of water over parts of the M1 Highway.

"All waters and creeks surrounding the Pacific Highway near New Italy are rising up and expanding outwards.

"We've had 12 rescues today, including one at Bungawalbyn near Evans Head.

"That whole area is causing us massive problems, we've just had people getting caught in flood waters again and again."

Roads and Maritime Services have reported they have "cleared the site" but motorists can still expect heavy traffic conditions with significant delays on the Pacific Highway at New Italy, Swan Bay and Reardons Lane.

SES understands there to be many residents in flood affected areas remaining trapped, with thousands of calls received from around NSW in the last 24-hours.

Motorists are again advised not to enter flood waters and to avoid the Pacific Highway between Ballina and Grafton.

UPDATE 2.35pm:

Roads and Maritime Services have reported they have "cleared the site" but motorists can still expect heavy traffic conditions with significant delays on the Pacific Highway at New Italy.

INITIAL REPORT:

EMERGENCY services have closed the Pacific Highway in both directions between Grafton and Ballina due to dangerous floodwaters.

Road and Maritime Services expect the road to remain closed until at least 11:00pm tonight with only heavy vehicles allowed to pass through on the northbound lane.

In the mean time, motorists have been warned to expect significant delays. Northbound motorists are parking or queueing at Grafton, and southbound motorists are parking or queueing at Ballina.

Northbound traffic is also heavy at Woodburn, with only local residents and emergency services allowed through.

Flooding in Woodburn. By Samantha Elley /The Northern Star
Flooding in Woodburn. By Samantha Elley /The Northern Star

Local residents and emergency services can access Maclean and Yamba.

Those travelling to or from Queensland are advised to use the New England Highway.

Summerland Way is also closed 5km north of Whiporie due to flooding, with residents advised to avoid the area and use the New England Highway.

A Tweed SES spokesman told ABC a mass rescue effort was required where the water went across the highway at New Italy.

Several vehicles were stranded in flash flooding with the SES estimating up to 30 cars have attempted to drive through the floodwater.

NSW Police extracted those motorists from their vehicles.


HEAVY RAIN AND STRONG WIND WARNING:

Heavy rain which may lead to flash flooding is expected through parts of the Northern Rivers and adjacent ranges today.

Rainfall totals between 100 mm to 200 mm are expected during Saturday for the warning area. Localised falls exceeding 250 mm are also possible during Saturday.

Damaging winds, averaging 60 to 70 km/h with peak gusts in excess of 90 km/h are possible along the coastal fringe for southern parts of the Northern Rivers.


FLOOD WATCH:

There has been significant rainfall along the NSW Coast, especially in the Mid-North Coast with over 100 mm of rainfall being recorded in the past 24 hours to 9 am this morning.

Over 180 mm fell in Evans Head.

The low-pressure trough off the central and northern New South Wales coast is expected to continue to bring significant rainfall to the Northern Rivers for the remainder of Saturday and into Sunday.

This rainfall coupled with wet catchment conditions has the potential to cause flooding to develop in the following river valleys over the weekend:

1. Brunswick - minor flooding

2. Wilsons - minor flooding

3. Richmond - minor flooding

4. Clarence - minor flooding

5. Nambucca - minor to moderate

6. Macleay - minor flooding

Topics:  editors picks flooding pacific highway road closures


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