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Full alert as flood warning upgraded

An evacuation order has been issued for sections of Cooma as significant rises in the Cooma Creek prompt fears of flooding, while both Queanbeyan and Oaks Estate are also expected to exceed their minor flood levels this morning after heavy rains overnight.

The Cooma Monaro Express reports residents and businesses along Cooma Creek, Cooma Back Creek and 20 nearby streets have been ordered to evacuate immediately.

NSW State Emergency Service spokesman Michael Eburn told ABC Radio the evacuation order was in place due to a broken river gauge and rapidly rising creek levels.

For people unable to stay with friends of family, an evacuation centre has been set up at the Ex-Services Club on Vale Street in Cooma.

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Flood warnings have been issued for areas along the Queanbeyan and Molonglo Rivers, with Queanbeyan expecting to see the river to reach 5.2m about 5pm, and Oaks Estate expected to see a moderate flood event, with river heights reaching 5.8m at 7pm.

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Some residents south of Tharwa on Naas and Smith Roads have been cut off after Naas Road flooded at Spring Station Creek. Both ACT and NSW State Emergency Services are assessing the needs of residents, however there are no plans to evacuate the area at this stage.

Locals in Oaks Estate, Pialligo and the Lower Molonglo areas were urged to be wary of the flood threat and the Emergency Services Agency planned to use the telephone alert system, which partly failed during last year's toxic chemical fire in Mitchell, to advise of a possible evacuation.

Birrigai Outdoor School near Tharwa was this morning evacuated of seven staff and 50 students and four teachers from Holy Trinity Primary School Curtain before expected road closures later today. The evacuation was a precautionary measure, with no risk to the evacuees.

An evacuation warning remained in place in Goulburn as authorities monitored rises in river levels. A general flood watch remains in place for minor to moderate flooding in the Murrumbidgee Valley.

Heavy rain overnight has caused localised flooding, with roads closed and many roads becoming covered in large pools of water. Motorists are advised to exercise caution.

It has also caused the closure of all ACT Government sports grounds until at least Monday, "to prevent damage to the turf surfaces and also in the interests of player safety".

The ACT SES received 47 calls for help overnight, with a total of 118 calls coming in as a result of the wet weather since 3pm on Tuesday.

 Rainfall in the first 10 hours of the first day of Autumn have exceeded the average falls for the entire month. More than 60 mm of rain has fallen on the ACT since midnight and Canberra’s average March rainfall is 50.7mm.

Rain across the ACT is expected to ease this morning, before resuming this afternoon, with up 70mm forecast for the day.

Cooma and Goulburn were issued evacuation warnings after Goulburn Airport recorded almost 100mm of rain in less than 24 hours and Cooma Airport more than 30mm.

Sydney's Warragamba Dam is also on the verge of overflowing for the first time in more than a decade.

Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Francois Geffroy said flood watches and severe weather warnings for southern NSW and the ACT would probably be in place until the weekend.

NSW SES Queanbeyan had responded to more than 20 calls for help from people requesting sandbags last night.

The unit's Queanbeyan spokesman Mitchell Clout urged residents to prepare and tipped some might hear from the services in the early hours of this morning, when an evacuation order may have been issued.

But locals Ray Whitfield and John Singh, who have lived at Old Kent House, an apartment complex in Queanbeyan, for 10 years, doubted they would see a repeat of the floods in 2010.

"We're only getting light rain at the moment, the big heavy rain we haven't got it yet," Mr Whitfield said. "Last time it was torrential rain and it happened quick."

The apartment complex has been sandbagged in preparation for potential flooding. It received significant flooding damage during 2010.

Nearby campers at Queanbeyan Riverside Tourist Park, which was also hit by the floods in 2010, were told to "move to higher ground" yesterday in case the area was hit by floods again.

The heavy rains have also threatened construction works at the Cotter Dam enlargement project, as water spills over the old Cotter Dam.

ACTEW has begun moving equipment and gear, with fears that intense rainfall could see water spill over the new Cotter Dam.

"New Cotter Dam will shortly become the dam holding the Cotter reservoir," Actew managing director Mark Sullivan tweeted this morning.

Landholders and graziers in low lying areas are also being urged to move livestock to higher grounds as a precaution against possible floods. The ACT government has contacted landholders at greatest risk.

with Ewa Kretowicz