Sydney’s miserable March: 19 days out of past 22 have been wet

MERCURY NEWS UNANDERRA SEARCH Pic shows SES crews searching Albert St in Unanderra during the search for missing 11 year old Ryan Teasdale who went missing from Riley Park in Unanderra after riding his body board down the hill during yesterday’s wild wet weather. 17th of March 2017 Photo: Adam McLean Photo: Adam McLeanIn Sydney’s own version of Groundhog Day, rain has continued on Saturday in a miserable March that may break rainfall records.

It has rained in Sydney on 19 of the last 22 days, dumping more than 281 millimetres.

And it is expected to continue for another week, with the best chance of a partially dry day coming on Monday.

With nearly two weeks still left in the month, the number of rainy March days has already exceeded the average of 13.6 days and is inching towards the 22 wet days in March 2014.

The record is 26 wet days in March, 1870, said Rob Sharpe, meteorologist at Weatherzone.

“So far we’ve clocked 15 rainy days in March and we’re only just halfway through the month,” he said.

“It’s pretty exceptional, even for this time of year, to see in the first 18 days of the month 15 days with some rainfall recorded.”

So far this month, Sydney has recorded 216 millimetres.

It has already exceeded last year’s monthly total of 193 millimetres and may exceed the last big total March rainfall of 270 millimetres in 2012 – the wettest March in almost 30 years.

But it’s unlikely to beat the wettest March on record – a whopping 434.30 millimetres in 1892.

To the north of Sydney and the mid-north coast; State Emergency Service personnel have fielded more than 2,800 requests for assistance, with over 700 jobs attended.

The SES has performed at least nine rescues since the rain event began in the Clarence-Numbucca region alone, while statewide that figure climbs to more than 70 flood rescues – mainly centred around Ballina, Yamba and Bungawalbin.

The Bellinger River valley was hit with as many as 274 millimetres of rain over the 24-hour period to 7pm on Saturday, with floodwaters still on the rise.

Spokesperson for the NSW SES Joshua McLaren said the organisation’s long-term work ensures communities know what to do in such events – it is now about making sure the community is aware of the conditions.

“A lot of these communities are highly resilient, it’s more about alerting them to the facts,” he said.

“We are however reminding the public to make the safe decisions around driving in floodwaters – we don’t want to have to put our volunteers lives on the line to go in and get them.”

180 teams of SES volunteers remain on standby to respond to incidents across the state as the rain continues to fall.

The Bureau of Meteorology expects heavy rain to intensify into Sunday morning before easing later in the day, meaning it is unable to predict just how high waters are set to peak.

Incessant rain has created more than just a clothes dryer backlog for Stephanie Cassimatis, director of Pink Caviar events. It has been a month of logistic nightmares for wedding planners.

“Thankfully, going into autumn, a lot of weddings are indoor but we did have a ceremony last weekend that was supposed to happen at Observatory Hill,” she said.

“The logistics of transporting equipment and decorations and vehicles of stock is a bit of a headache because you don’t want to get these things wet. Whether it’s draping things with sheets or creating makeshift tents to work in and out of the back of a truck, you just do what you can as you go.”

Contacting guests at the last minute with a new location, quickly shifting gear and pepping up brides who wake to grey skies have all been part of the job.

Elsewhere, the weather has had devastating effects.

On Thursday, 11-year-old Ryan Teasdale died after being swept away in floodwaters and sucked into a stormwater drain in Unanderra, south of Wollongong.

And on Friday evening, a 77-year-old Coogee local who went swimming at dusk was also swept away and drowned.

Flash flooding across northern NSW and the Illawarra led to several dramatic flood rescues.

A severe weather warning was issued on Saturday morning for more heavy rain and flash flooding on the Mid North Coast, Northern Rivers, Hunter region and Northern Tablelands.

In an hour on Saturday morning, Evans Head received 83 millimetres and Yamba received 50 millimetres.

At midday, the Pacific Highway was closed in both directions at New Italy and at Grafton due to flooding.

“Already we’re seeing quite strong call volumes coming through,” said Phil Campbell, spokesman for the NSW State Emergency Service.

The Bureau of Meteorology said 100 to 200 millimetres is expected in the Northern Rivers and Mid North Coast on Saturday.

In Sydney, rain is forecast for the next seven days with thunderstorms predicted on late Tuesday and Thursday.

With James Lemon

Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media