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Wild weather: cold front wreaks havoc on Victoria and brings snow to swathes of NSW

An evacuation order has been issued for Traralgon due to wild weather which has caused widespread flooding in Gippsland, damaged homes, left almost 200,000 homes without power and prompted almost 4,000 calls to the State Emergency service overnight.

About 220 low-lying properties in Traralgon, 160km east of Melbourne, are under direct threat of inundation from Traralgon Creek, and an evacuation centre has been set up in the basketball stadium, with residents urged to leave now.

The department of health has urged people to evacuate to the homes of friends or family if possible, but people are allowed to leave home for their safety under Covid restrictions.

In other parts of Gippsland, people have been asked to stay put for up to 48 hours as floodwaters cross over major roads including the Princes Highway are cut by floodwaters, leaving people stranded.

The State Emergency Service has already rescued 12 people who drove into floodwaters, chief operations officer Tim Wiebusch said on Thursday.

“We cannot emphasise enough that driving into floodwaters is the greatest risk you can take,” he said. “It is the number one thing where we see fatalities during flooding. It ties up emergency services unnecessarily, and we have already seen around a dozen flood rescues occur today.”

The SES has received more than 4,500 calls of assistance, 245,000 homes have been affected by power outages, and the 17 flood warnings remained in place on Thursday morning.

Weibusch said it was still “an extremely dynamic situation”.

“The last time we have seen a wind event that led to a flooding event was in 2008,” he said. “In 2012, June, that was the most recent event where we have seen similar flooding to what we are likely to see over coming days.”

Meanwhile in New South Wales, the same cold front that has wreaked havoc on Victoria has caused widespread snowfalls along the Great Dividing Range, the northern ranges and the northern tablelands – even in places like Inverell, less than 600m above sea level.

In Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, strong winds have brought trees down on homes and powerlines, leaving up to 142,000 residences without power. More than a quarter of the Ausnet network, which provides electricity to eastern Melbourne and Gippsland, has been impacted by the storms, a spokesperson said.

“It will be several days before we can restore power to everyone,” he said. “We have had thousands of calls to our call centre about trees over lines and lines down.”

The SES received 3,997 calls for assistance in the 24 hours to 5am. A small number of homes have become isolated due to flooding

All of the larger rivers in south and west Gippsland reached major flood levels overnight, the Bureau of Meteorology said, and flood levels are expected to rise today as rain that fell on the mountains rushes into the catchments.

The bureau has issued major flood warnings for the Avon, Latrobe, Mcalister, and Thomson rivers in Gippsland as well as for Traralgon Creek.

There’s also a moderate flood warning for the Goulburn River in central Victoria.

Between 100mm and 150mm of rain fell throughout western and southern Gippsland overnight, with more forecast to fall on Thursday.

Mount Baw Baw, next to Melbourne’s largest water reservoir, recorded 275mm and Mount Tassie, in the Strzelecki Ranges in southern Gippsland, recorded 293mm.

The rainfall may have reached record levels, says the bureau’s duty forecaster for Victoria, Miriam Bradbury. “It’s quite likely that we will see some records having been broken in the west and south of Gippsland,” she said.

Damaging winds also hit central Victoria, with gusts of up to 115km/h recorded at Puckapunyal. Falling trees and downed lines have left 29,000 people without power. A furhter 30,000 have already had power restored.

“We’ve had dozens of trees down in the wind, particularly in the Macedon ranges and Kyneton,” a spokesman said. “As people start their day and begin to move about we expect those reports to increase.”

In NSW, heavy snowfalls were reported in the Blue Mountains, southern highlands, northern ranges and northern tablelands, as well as across the Alps. The snow was continuing to fall into Thursday morning.

People in Orange, in central western NSW, woke up to a blanketing of snow.

Snow was also falling at Mudgee.

Snow was even recorded in the northern NSW town of Inverell and along the western slopes of the northern tablelands.

Temperatures also dropped below freezing for much of the state, with an overnight low of -3.9C recorded at both the alpine resort at Thredbo and in Moss Vale in the southern highlands, 130km south-west of Sydney.

Source: The Guardian