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Worst flood in decades swamps parts of the South Coast

While the Sopers didn’t need rescuing, the NSW State Emergency Service was called in to evacuate two of their neighbours in one of more than three dozen rescues and about 850 requests for help since the wild weather moved in on Saturday.

Ben Jackson and his partner Aapo Skorulis, both SES volunteers called in from Kiama, had to paddle their boat for four kilometres before dawn over submerged roads to rescue of the couple who were stranded with five horses and four dogs.

“On the way out we passed three cars, one of them almost completely under water [that had been involved in earlier rescues],” Mr Jackson said.

The two managed to bring the couple out, while another crew helped bring the animals to safety. “There were glad to see some happy faces,” Mr Jackson said.

Shangyou Zhang, a flood forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology, said the Shoalhaven River was likely to peak at 4.2 metres, making it the river’s biggest flood since 1991.

Nowra’s largest flood came in 1978, when the Shoalhaven River rose to 5.3 metres. Monday’s peak is 4.13 metres.

An SES crew carries their boat from the floodwaters that have partially submerged Bolong Road at Shoalhaven Heads.

An SES crew carries their boat from the floodwaters that have partially submerged Bolong Road at Shoalhaven Heads.Credit:Kate Geraghty

Late on Monday, the area was closing in on 400 millimetres of rain for the event, with conditions forecast to ease. Several other bouts of heavy rain had made the catchments wet, so additional falls largely ended flowing directly into coastal rivers.

“Basically, this has been one [rain event] following another,” Mr Zhang said.

Floodwaters beneath the Nowra Bridge over the Shoalhaven River.

Floodwaters beneath the Nowra Bridge over the Shoalhaven River.Credit: Kate Geraghty

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And there remains a chance of more bad weather along eastern NSW, with the possibility of another east coast low forming by the weekend.

Five or more days out, it is difficult to tell whether places such as Nowra may be in for another soaking.

“It really depends on where the low-pressure system does end forming,” Alex Majchrowski, a Bureau of Meteorology forecaster, said, adding it did not appear to be as intense as the past few events.

The latest flood involved more than 800 SES and other emergency service staff. Greg Lynch, an assistant SES commissioner, said the spate of recent deluges and the possibility of another coming posed additional risks.

A road closed sign stands in floodwaters on the Coolangatta Road at Far Meadow in the Shoalhaven area.

A road closed sign stands in floodwaters on the Coolangatta Road at Far Meadow in the Shoalhaven area.Credit:Kate Geraghty

“Trees are very vulnerable to falling over,” Mr Lynch said.

East coast lows are most common in NSW at this time of year and often come in clusters.

Along with the heavy rain and strong winds, they also generate big swells that can cause significant beach erosion as seen along Sydney’s northern beaches and Wamberal on the Central Coast last month.

The Bureau late on Monday issued a severe weather warning for damaging surf and damaging wind for a coastal strip ranging from near Kempsey south to the Illawarra region.

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