The Blue Mountains was battered by torrential rain and gale force winds on the weekend, causing widespread damage and stretching emergency services crews who responded to more than 100 calls for help.
About 210mm of rain fell in the region in less than 40 hours and by Sunday afternoon 30 Blue Mountains State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers were clearing fallen trees from roads and houses at 60 different locations.
A landslide on Monday morning at Bullaburra forced trains to be delayed by up to 50 minutes in both directions from Monday night and into Tuesday. One early morning train from Bathurst to Central was delayed by two hours. Civil and geotechnical engineers were assessing the damage throughout Monday and RailCorp crews worked through Monday night to restore one set of tracks in time for the morning’s peak with buses also supplementing train services.
There were reports of minor flooding to homes at Wentworth Falls with more rain predicted for the Mountains.
One Waratah Road resident, Sophie Seeger, said she witnessed her neighbour’s home being completed flooded.
“The water was like a river running through the carport from the front to the back door and at least a foot under,” she said.
Blue Mountains Police Rescue and NSW Ambulance Special Casualty Access Team (SCAT) paramedics conducted three missions to retrieve bushwalkers stranded in the national park.
A personal locator beacon was set off in the Grose Valley at 3.15pm on Saturday by an American bushwalker. A four-man search team set off to find him but pulled out at 3.30am. The man dialed triple-0 at 9am on Sunday to report he’d arrived safely at the car park at Victoria Falls, telling police he’d been swept downstream along the Grose River during the storm but was able to get himself out.
In the second incident, a beacon was set off just prior to 5.30pm in the Whingee Whungee Canyon near Mount Wilson and later identified as belonging to a group of six canyoners. They were found shortly before 9pm but were trapped on one side of the canyon by high floodwaters.
The group camped overnight and an ambulance helicopter winched them to safety on Sunday.
At 8pm on Saturday a SCAT team began searching for a couple who failed to return from a canyoning trip to Empress Falls near Wentworth Falls.
Their car was found in the car park and the team walked into the canyon as far as possible in deteriorating conditions without success.
At 8am the next morning a National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) team found the man and woman, both aged 41.
The pair later told police they realised they were lost and decided to camp overnight.
According to the Fairfax-owned Weatherzone site, Katoomba copped easterly wind gusts of up to 90km/h and 115mm of rainfall in the 24 hours to 9am on Sunday, adding to the 47.8mm that fell on Friday night into Saturday morning.
In Springwood the rainfall figures were 56.4mm to 9am on Sunday and 38.2mm to 9am on Saturday.
Blue Mountains SES local controller John Hughes said most calls for assistance originated in the Upper Mountains and included “reports of rock slides that closed some local roads, including Megalong Valley Road and Mt Irvine Road.”
SES volunteers were also placed on standby to assist in the Hawkesbury as flood warnings were issued for the Richmond area as the Nepean River quickly rose.
At one point the water level rose slightly above the road surface on the recently upgraded Yarramundi Bridge and the river’s level was monitored as Warragamba Dam commenced to spill early on Monday morning.
The SES appealed for residents to keep their gutters and drains clear and also requested property owners complete long term issues like building maintenance.
“Placing a tarp on a roof in high winds in the rain is dangerous and in most cases does not stop the leak, but fixing it before the storm by the owner is the answer,” Mr Hughes said.
The iconic Paragon Cafe sustained minor water damage to carpets and its window display on Saturday although a staff member told the Gazette the cafe remained open and served customers as usual.
“There was a bit of a damp smell and some hand-painted decorations were damaged, but it was trading as normal,” she said. “We have booked someone to fix a section of the roof this week.”
Scenic World in Katoomba was also hit by the wild weather with sections of the rainforest boardwalk damaged by fallen trees.
Scenic World spokesperson Amanda Byrne said most of the 2.4km long boardwalk remained open, “but some sections were damaged by fallen trees and a small landslip that happened after-hours [on Saturday night] so we’ve closed those”.
There was currently no access by foot through Scenic World to the Jamison Valley.
If you require SES assistance during a storm, phone 132-500.