Kempsey braced for flooding as weather system heads down coast
Residents of Kempsey on the NSW mid-north coast are bracing for flooding as the Macleay River encroaches on the town's levee following heavy rains.
More than 18,300 people in communities along the north and mid-north coasts were ordered to evacuate on Saturday as a low pressure system that has claimed two lives tracked south.
About 10,000 people were expected to be without power overnight as roads remained cut and more than 9000 people were isolated by floods.
The storm's first fatality, 17-year-old Luke O'Neill, died after being swept into a drainpipe on Friday night as he was collecting golf balls in waist-deep water in the town of Kew.
On Saturday afternoon the body of a man was found in his submerged car on a flooded road at Mylneford, about 20 kilometres north-west of Grafton.
Evacuation orders were issued on Saturday for downtown residents and businesses of Kempsey as the Macleay River rose and was expected to overtop the levee by late evening.
Flooding of the central business district was expected early on Sunday with the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) predicting the river at Kempsey Bridge to peak near 7.3 metres at 6am.
Kempsey Shire mayor Liz Campbell told AAP at 10.15pm on Saturday that it had stopped raining and she believed the levee had yet to be topped.
She said the predicted peak would be just below the 2001 flood, which would mean shops and some houses would have water in them.
"We're hoping if it doesn't get that high we'll be OK but it's wait and see at the moment.
"It just depends what happens upriver and how fast that water comes down."
Ms Campbell said CBD businesses had put their flood plans in place, sandbagged premises and moved goods and equipment to higher levels.
She said the small nearby township of Smithtown on the Macleay had been evacuated and water was starting to come into houses after the river banks broke.
Evacuation centres have been opened at two high schools and an Anglican hall in Kempsey.
Other evacuation orders were issued for low-lying parts of Port Macquarie, Settlement Point and other nearby communities as well as lower areas around Grafton.
NSW Police have urged motorists to avoid driving into floodwaters following the death at Mylneford and 33 rescues from floodwaters in the state's north-east since Friday morning.
One fast water rescue was of a 68-year-old man clinging to a tree after his utility was washed off a flooded causeway south of Casino after he ignored warning signs early on Saturday.
On Saturday evening severe weather warnings remained in place for Sydney, the mid-north coast, the Hunter, the Illawarra and the Central Tablelands.
The BoM said as the low moved south-west, the rain would increase in intensity as it moved into the Hunter, Sydney, Central Tablelands/Blue Mountains and the Illawarra.
Conditions are expected to ease later on Sunday.