The flood emergency in the central western NSW town of Forbes has eased but farmers are yet to count their losses as paddocks are inundated and floodwaters head downstream.
The Lachlan River at Forbes’ Iron Bridge peaked near 10.53 metres on Thursday morning, just below the September 2016 flood level that swamped hundreds of homes.
Water began sweeping through Forbes on Wednesday afternoon, flooding some houses and destroying crops in the district.
Many roads remain closed but fears the town would suffer the same devastation it experienced five years ago weren’t realised.
Major flooding is occurring at Cottons Weir, with major flooding expected at Jemalong on Friday and minor to moderate flooding expected at Condobolin later next week.
Hundreds of evacuees have returned home and local State Emergency Commander Rocky Walshaw says sandbagging properties and other preparations over the past week paid off.
“We prepared for the worst and hoped for the best,” he told ABC TV.
While the floodwaters were slow to arrive they will also be slow to recede and NSW Farmers expects the losses to run into hundreds of million of dollars.
Premier Dominic Perrottet flew into Forbes to see the damage and thank volunteers and emergency service workers.
He commended the 300 SES volunteers who conducted 33 flood rescues and evacuated 1900 people.
They also managed to fill 50,000 sandbags to protect homes.
“That is the spirit that gets our state through these difficult times,” the premier said.
He noted locals had in the past four years endured floods, drought, bushfires, a mouse plague and the pandemic, only to be hit with more floods.
“They’re a very resilient community here and they are going to get through this difficult time as well,” Mr Perrottet said.
Deputy Premier Paul Toole said the flooding had caused widespread damage and delivered a cruel blow to farmers who were preparing to harvest a bumper crop.
“We won’t know the extent of that damage until the waters have actually receded,” he said.
Scott Darcy’s farm at Bedgerabong was visited by the NSW premier.
He’s already lost sheep to the floods and about 1000 of his ewes are lambing.
He’s expecting a huge volume of water to pass through his property that will wipe out his wheat and canola crops, costing him hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“It’s a Russian Roulette,” he told AAP.
“Whatever water is on the other side of that mountain range it’s got to come past here.”
Forbes Mayor Phyllis Miller said although water had come through the town, she insisted “it’s nothing we can’t handle”.
The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting more rain in the area over the weekend, leaving the town “on a knife’s edge”, Ms Miller said.
“We’re not out of the woods yet.”
The SES has advised residents and businesses to keep their flood preparations in place with more rain forecast that may contribute to increased flooding and river rises.
Emergency Services Minister David Elliott told parliament the Forbes evacuation centre at St Andrews Church was now closed but could be needed again in the coming days if the predicted rain predicted sparks further evacuations.