Residents are sandbagging and authorities are considering evacuation orders as floodwaters slowly rise in the New South Wales central west.

Key points:

  • Floodwater is expected to peak at Forbes on Tuesday morning
  • It’s likely to reach a height similar to the September 2016 flood
  • A decision if some residents will be evacuated is set to be made later today

At Forbes, the Lachlan River is expected to reach 9.50 metres this morning, and a peak of around 10.55 metres tomorrow morning.

State Emergency Service (SES) incident controller Barry Griffiths said it was “likely” an evacuation order would be made for about 30 properties later today.

However, it was dependent on information from the Nanami flood gauge upstream of Forbes.

“We’re not going to evacuate the entire township, we are only going to concentrate on the people who are likely to be inundated by floodwater,” SES incident controller Barry Griffiths said.

“We’re trying to really to tailor our evacuation if it’s required to the lay of the land and what the floodwater’s doing,” Mr Griffiths said.

Dozens of roads, including important transport links like most of the Lachlan Valley Way between Forbes and Cowra, are closed.

Floodwaters over a tar road

Flooding is widespread around the district, and has seen multiple roads closed due to the water.(Supplied: Brendan Mansbridge)

The river could edge higher again, to a predicted 10.65 metres, on Wednesday.

An evacuation warning was issued last night, to give residents the heads-up on the potential decision.

Properties anticipated to be in danger are those south of Bathurst street, east of Ooma and Ferry streets, between Lake Forbes and Ooma Street, in parts of North Forbes and the CBD, north-east of the Forbes Railway, north of the Newell Highway and in West Forbes, west of Wambat Street.

The SES has doorknocked residents expected to be affected by the initial peak, and will expand that to other homes if the river continues to rise.

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Forbes, with its normally picturesque riverside views, is no stranger to floods.

The SES has warned the water could reach the height of the devastating September 2016 flood, which caused millions of dollars of damage to farmland and crops around the shire.

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Local resident Leo Pietsch thought it was nothing to be overly worried about.

His son was helping him sandbag his property, which overlooks Lake Forbes, the lagoon in the town.

He said he expected the garden would “be getting a good watering”.

Mr Pietsch, 92, recalled large floods in the 1950s, which saw cattle and furniture floating down the swollen river.

“I just hope it’s not a major flood,” he said.

A man sits on a red motorised scooter beside a ute with sandbags in the tray.

Long time Forbes resident, 92-year-old Leo Pietsch, recalled damaging floods of the 1950s, but said he was not worried about this one reaching his house.(ABC Central West: Xanthe Gregory)

Mr Griffiths said it was hard to predict how the water would impact the town.

“Historically, Forbes has always had different levels of flooding and different phenomenon when it comes to floodwater,” Mr Griffiths said.

“In 2012 floodwater moved through the town, in 2016 it didn’t move through the town, so exactly what the water does is kind of like flip a coin.”

Dam influencing flooding

The flood is being intensified by the release of thousands of megalitres from the Wyangala Dam upstream and the swollen Lachlan tributary, the Belubula River.

Overnight, releases from the Wyangala Dam, which was at 105 per cent full, were scaled back from 80 to 50 gigalitres a day.

While the flooding has been exacerbated by the dam, Mr Griffiths said the landscape is now playing a bigger factor.

“The variables that will change the behaviour of the water is the height of crops, grasses and the saturated soil conditions around the plains,” he said.

“They will be influencing what we’ve got coming through today.”

Water spills from a dam.

The massive Wyangala Dam near Cowra is spilling thousands of litres of water into the Lachlan River.(ABC Central West: Xanthe Gregory)

Water NSW spokesman Tony Webber said inflows to the dam have been significant and made a tough situation harder.

“What made this more challenging was the dam was already full; we pulled it down where we could,” Mr Webber said.

“But nothing was going to capture the inflows that we had peaking at something like 10 per cent of the dam’s entire volume in one day at one point,” he said.

Mr Webber said the authority would now work to lower the dam back to 100 per cent capacity, by mid-week, to provide some airspace for the next round of rainfall.

“The challenge is now, and speaking to the [Bureau of Meterology] now there’s a possibility of a rain event next weekend,” he said.

The SES said the Lachlan peaked at Cowra overnight at 12.64 metres.

Major flooding is occurring at Nanami, which is expected to peak at 12.20 metres this afternoon. If that happens, it will be higher than the September 2016 flood.

Preparation for the water is in full swing, with the local football club helping the sandbagging efforts.

A man in a button up blue shirt overlooks an industrial area with diggers and sand piles.

SES incident controller Barry Griffiths says floodwaters are likely to hit low lying parts of Forbes.(ABC Central West: Xanthe Gregory)

Posted , updated 

Anxious wait for rain-soaked NSW residents facing possible evacuation as Lachlan River swells
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