Severe thunderstorms have been cancelled in Queensland and NSW but flood warnings remain in place as water levels continue to rise, with more rain expected.
Parts of western Sydney were spared on Thursday after less rain than expected fell in the area, but major flooding continues after 500,000 people were told to evacuate their homes in recent days around NSW.
Some 130,000 homes in the path of a spilling Warragamba dam in the Hawkesbury-Nepean region in western Sydney were given some reprieve on Thursday afternoon with the news that flooding is no longer likely to be worse than it was in March 2021.
With dozens of evacuation orders in place around the state it remains to be seen whether residents in some of them will be given the all clear to return home on Friday.
A forecast for 600 gigalitres of water to spill over the dam wall daily was revised down to between 300 and 350 gigalitres, after less rain than expected fell in the catchment area.
Western Sydney is still experiencing major flooding, but the rivers are expected to peak below the March 2021 flood.
The Bureau of Meteorology said on Thursday night major flooding was expected at Windsor as the Hawkesbury and Lower Nepean Rivers continued to rise.
Wallacia experienced moderate flooding on Thursday afternoon following peaks on the Nepean River at Menangle and Camden.
Further north, the Richmond River delivered major flooding at Coraki, Bungawalbyn and Woodburn on Thursday, with peaks near the record March 1974 flood level, but Casino and Kyogle fell back below the minor flood level.
The SES responded to more than 2500 requests for assistance and conducted 144 flood rescues in the 24 hours until 5pm on Thursday.
Sydney avoided the heaviest rains on Thursday, with more intense falls to the north in the Hunter region and to the south in the Illawarra.
While the low pressure system that brought hundreds of millimetres of rain and devastating flooding to multiple areas in Qld and NSW over the past week was expected to ease overnight into Friday, more severe weather could be on the way.
Another cold front on the way from Victoria will bring more rain and severe weather into the weekend, Bureau meteorologist Jackson Browne warned on Thursday.
More rain could cause renewed river rises around the state, the BOM warns.
Thursday night threat in Qld doesn’t appear to have eventuated, but severe thunderstorms still possible on Friday
Schools shut as thunderstorms strike
Queensland schools will remain shut on Friday as the southeast braces for more severe thunderstorms and torrential flooding after a historic week of rain.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the decision on Thursday with only children of essential workers permitted at schools, as more dangerous storms are expected through Friday.
“The safest place for people to be probably over the next 24 to 48 hours is in their homes, with their family and loved ones, not out on the roads, and of course allowing our emergency personnel to get where they need to go,” the premier said.
The Bureau of Meteorology has predicted flash flooding and minor to major flooding across areas in the southeast stretching from Brisbane’s north to Bundaberg.
These include creeks and catchments that are saturated from rainfall in the last seven days.
Totals of between 20-80 millimetres are expected as a trough lingers over the southeast with high intensity rainfall and totals of 150 millimetres or greater expected in isolated areas.
Following three days of torrential rain that inundated more than 17,500 homes and businesses in the Brisbane, Gympie, Logan and Ipswich areas, the premier said it was difficult sending residents back inside just as the clean-up begins.
“This is a really tough time especially for people who have been flooded,” she said.
The premier also called on non-essential workers to remain home as the supercell passes over.
Damage from Brisbane’s worst deluge in a decade is estimated in the billions of dollars, with nine people losing their lives in flooding.