Blue Mountains declared Natural Disaster Area following more record-breaking rains

The Blue Mountains is again experiencing massive impacts from a severe wet weather event causing extensive landslips, tree falls, road closures, flooding, drainage problems and leaking buildings.
Landslip, fallen trees and water over road, with yellow sign saying 'traffic hazard ahead'

Since Saturday 2 July, the Blue Mountains has received over 340mm of rain, with 207mm coming down on Sunday 3 July 2022 alone. This is more than double any 24-hour period this year. The highest previous total was 101 mm on 7 March 2022.

Overnight the Blue Mountains was again declared a Natural Disaster Area being the second time in four months as a result of torrential rains. Unfortunately, more rain is predicted this week. as much as possible.

Blue Mountains Mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill, said: “The Council and I are urging everyone to limit movements and to be extremely careful if you need to move around. The risks are very real, and very high. Be aware of falling trees – the immense amount of rain that has fallen has softened the ground considerably.

“This is the second major rain and flood event we’ve experienced this year, and the fourth over the last three years. It is taking a real and compounded toll on our natural environment and infrastructure, as well as on our community,” Mayor Greenhill said.

“We’ve now been declared a Natural Disaster Area, along with 22 other LGAs across the state so far. And it’s the best thing for us in the circumstances. It opens doors to resources and support mechanisms that will be vital to managing the crisis, and the clean up to follow.

“I’d also strongly encourage everyone to make use of the new Emergency Dashboard Council launched at the end of last year. It’s a brilliant resource designed to provide local, up to the minute information during these kinds of events.

The Emergency Dashboard includes updates from emergency services, latest news, and local road closures, as well as helpful recovery information. You can access the emergency dashboard online.

Need help?

For all storm-related damage, including trees you think are at imminent risk of falling, your first call should be to the SES on 132 500. They are equipped and resourced to respond during this kind of emergency and weather event.

If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, as always, call 000 immediately.

If you need to report an issue with a local (Council-owned) road or facility, you can do so via:

Staying safe

There is a significant risk during a storm and severe rain event. The safety of our community is our number one priority, and we advise all residents to:

  • Avoid all travel, even short distances, unless absolutely necessary.
  • Stay home – the safest place to be is inside your house.
  • Avoid walking, camping or driving in storm conditions and heavy rains.
  • Be aware of falling trees – the immense amount of rain that has fallen has softened the ground considerably, which can lead to trees losing their grip and falling with no warning.
  • Take extra precautions against mosquito bites, as mosquito-borne illnesses increase in flood-affected areas.
  • Avoid driving or walking through floodwaters – you don’t know what’s hiding in the water, if the road has been damaged, or how fast the current is travelling.

Impact on Council facilities

A number of Council facilities are experiencing water leaks and damage. If you are visiting one of our facilities, please be aware of your surroundings, and follow the directions of all signage and staff.

All sportsgrounds are currently closed.

The Blaxland Library is closed until further notice, due to substantial roof leaks and mould.

The Blaxland RRWMF has been significantly impacted by the rain and has closed the top platform is closed to the public. Currently the small vehicle area is open for hand unloading only. This may change if conditions deteriorate further and we are unable to safely empty the small vehicle area skip bins. Kerbside collection are continuing as normal.

A large number of outdoor works and projects are also halted, due to the weather. This includes mowing and sportsground maintenance, and park upgrades and works. Burials are also on hold.

Our outdoor crews are doing checks of locations to ensure there are no dangerous trees or debris. We are only making things safe at the moment, and some things we can’t fix until the weather clears.

City-wide roads

The rain over the weekend has halted the escalated road works program Council had been running to address the significant damage from several previous flood and rain events. We are monitoring the impacts of the recent rain and once the rain eases, we will need to reassess the damage, town by town.

Our crews will work in a two-stage process – they will do emergency patches to make roads safe and usable as quickly as possible. This is a temporary fix to allow residents to travel safely around the LGA while we enact the permanent and larger-scale repairs, which require completely dry roads and will take some time.

Walking tracks

Council, like the National Parks and Wildlife Service, is discouraging residents and visitors from using walking tracks as it is unsafe in this weather. Particular care should be given in areas close to the escarpment or where there may be potential for rockfall and landslides. Falling trees, slippery surfaces and flooded watercourses are also a significant risk.

A number of Council sites are currently closed, and further site-specific closures may occur if Council becomes aware of actual or imminent damage or other incidents. Get up to date information about the status of Council reserves and walking tracks.

Waste services

Domestic waste collections are happening as normal. If your street is closed, please leave your bins out and our trucks will return to collect your bins as soon as possible.

If you have green waste (tree branches etc.) to clean up due to the storms, please use either your fortnightly green bin collection, or the free kerb-side pick-ups. Please do not leave your green waste on the nature strip unless you have booked a pick-up service.

Managing the clean-up

Once the rain stops, it may take a week or more for the ground to dry out sufficiently, to allow Council staff to manage clean-up and assess damage. Sportsgrounds also need to dry out before they can be mown, to avoid damaging equipment and sportsground surfaces. There will likely be a delay in getting sportsgrounds reopened, and the mowing program back on schedule, as we are at the mercy of the weather conditions.

Council’s ongoing construction projects and upgrade works across the City will also be impacted by this event and the clean-up effort that will follow. The damage across the LGA from the storms and flooding is significant, and Council is prioritising its available resources to address the damage and seeking external emergency and grant funding.

“It’s both surreal and disheartening to me that we’re here again so soon, and I hear myself repeating the same messages the community. I, and Council, know that this is frustrating and difficult for our community.

“For the umpteenth time it falls to us to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, clean up, repair and survive. Nevertheless, that is what we must do, and what I know we can and will do together.

“I’m also keenly aware that it’s endlessly frustrating for the community to be told once again that Council projects and works will be impacted and possibly delayed. I promise you it’s just as frustrating for the Council staff who work on these projects and who are currently working around the clock in adverse weather conditions to keep our community safe,” Mayor Greenhill continued.

“Repairs and safety must come first. They also take time and come at a considerable cost. So I am again asking our remarkable community for both their understanding and their patience as we work together to repair our roads, our infrastructure and City moving forward.”

Photo: Landslip on Kanimbla Drive, Blackheath

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.