A lone senior constable, stationed in the tiny Upper Hunter village of Cassilis on the banks of the Munmurra River has been praised by his Chief Inspector after he dashed to the aid of his neighbours when around six homes were inundated by floodwaters in the early hours of Friday morning.
Around 5am, Senior Constable Sullivan was stationed with his family at the police residence of Cassilis, a village of about 300 residents, when parts of the town were inundated with approximately 30 centimetres of water as the Munmurra broke its banks.
"When it became apparent that there was floodwaters imminently impacting the houses, Snr Constable Sullivan made sure that his family was safe and then set about assisting his neighbours," Chief Inspector Guy Guiana said. "There were some people who needed assistance in the street. He made sure that there was a location for people to go. Being a small community, everyone pitched in."
Snr Constable Sullivan ensured power was isolated at the flooded homes and opened the community hall for shelter, Chief Insp. Guiana said.
"Certainly, it was a very frantic situation. He was under a lot of pressure, especially being on his own, but they did a really good job."
Meanwhile, around five other houses in the Kingdon Ponds area were impacted by floodwaters, Chief Insp. Guiana said, though only one of which was built on ground level, and there were no reports of serious injury.
As the river rose around Scone, Police and NSW State Emergency Service crews went door-to-door speaking with residents in preparation, though there was ultimately no evacuation necessary.
The attention of emergency services, meanwhile, shifted to Singleton Saturday afternoon as the Hunter River was expected to rise above moderate flooding levels of 11.5 metres around 7pm Saturday, and was likely to reach 12.7 metres Sunday morning. Further rises to trigger a major flooding event at 13 metres was possible, the SES advised around 6pm.
At Maitland, minor flooding levels were expected to be exceeded around 11pm Saturday, with around 8.4 metres possible by Monday morning.
Parts of the Upper Hunter gauged record rainfall at the height of the event, with as much as 150 millimetres falling at Blackville, to the north west of Muswellbrook, in the 24 hours to 9am Friday; an unprecedented November fall for the 137-year-old station.
Gauges at Kars Springs similarly showed record falls of 115.2 millimetres, with 53.6 millimetres falling at Merriwa.
"We have seen in areas of the Upper Hunter widespread (rainfall) of 50- to 150 millimetres, and that has resulted in quite quick river rises around Scone. And since then, we have seen that same water move down the rivers, resulting in rises downstream," a forecaster for the Bureau of Meteorology said.
At Metford, where NSW SES took command of an ongoing joint operation involving police, ambulance, fire services and NSW Surf Life Saving drone pilots assessing the situation from the air, Northern Region SES superintendent Graeme Craig said all eyes were now on Singleton as waterways upstream began to recede.
The river rose above minor flood levels around midday, with expectations that it would potentially exceed major flood levels into Sunday, possibly impacting properties in low-lying areas outside the Singleton levee. Residents of, Whittingham, Scotts Flat, Glenridding, Dunolly, Combo, and Whittingham Hall via New Freugh Hill via New England Highway and Range Road were urged to monitor the situation as it develops and be prepared to evacuate if and when it is required.
"It's not expected, by any means, that the levee's going to have any trouble," superintendent Craig said, "but we are certainly expecting a major flood level."
Crews were working to protect property and engaging with residents Saturday afternoon ahead of the expected peak.
SES crews had already attended at least 10 flood rescues since the rain event began on Thursday, the majority of which were assisting drivers who had travelled into flood waters, superintendent Craig said.
During one incident, officers attached to the Manning-Great Lakes Police District were guided by a member of the public to a vehicle that had been swept from a causeway on Riverford Road at Burrell Creek, around 25 kilometres south of Taree, and washed 200 metres downstream, trapping a 65-year-old man inside.
Two other men, aged 46 and 30, had entered the floodwaters in an attempt to assist the driver. When officers arrived, they fashioned a loop from a rope and cast it 10 metres to the three stranded men pulling them individually to safety. All three were assessed at the scene by NSW Ambulance paramedics and did not require further medical treatment.
At Wybong, two Upper Hunter police officers waded into floodwaters Friday night to rescue a 52-year-old man who had become stranded with his vehicle 400 metres from the roadway, after being swept from a flooded spillway.
A sergeant and senior constable entered the water and waded out to assist the man, who was safely returned to shore. Paramedics treated him at the scene before he was taken to Muswellbrook Hospital for observation.
Assistant Commissioner Peter McKenna, commended the actions of all officers involved.
"In the face of extreme danger, these officers acted quickly and courageously to ensure the stranded motorists were safely rescued," he said. "The reality is that police face many dangerous scenarios every shift they work, and they will do everything they can to protect the lives of the people of NSW.
"With more wet weather expected in the next week, the community are reminded to heed the warnings and advice of emergency services, particularly in the event of flood water."
Elsewhere, Volunteer Rescue Association crews had also assisted a driver from the roof of their vehicle in a flooded causeway at Merriwa.
"They were lucky that their car stuck there," SES superintendent Craig said, "It is so easy if you drive in, to lose traction and the next thing you've got a car floating off to the river. The likelihood of someone surviving is minimised prolifically when a car loses traction (in floodwaters)."
"There have not been any serious injuries, but I can absolutely attest that there have been quite a number of cases that we have responded to where people have been exceptionally lucky.
"We're fortunate that with those 10 rescues that we're aware of, that there has been no loss of life."
In similar circumstances, VRA crews were also tasked with removing a group of teenagers who were seen swimming in floodwaters at Merriwa earlier this week.
"Apart from the risk of being washed away - and that water was moving fairly quickly - what people need to understand is that it is not just water that you're swimming in. It's every chemical, piece of refuse, bit of animal waste, and dead animal carcasses that the water has passed over on its way to where you are," superintendent Craig said.
"It doesn't just include farmland, it also includes septic systems and everything that water passes over and through. We're not just talking about the risk of drowning or being trapped, there is also a serious health risk about being in contact with flood water.
"It's certainly not a place where kids should be swimming. It's absolutely not a safe environment to be playing in and our message, as always, is never walk, ride or drive through flood water. It's just not worth it."
SES crews had responded to 277 calls for assistance since Thursday, to clear fallen trees and branches and assist with property protection, 241 of which had been completed by Saturday afternoon.
Upstream waters, meanwhile, were showing definite signs of receding by Saturday afternoon. Kingdon Ponds, along with upper stretches of the Hunter River began falling after skirting major flooding levels overnight Friday. Flooding peaked at Denman between 10am and 11am Saturday, before receding by around half a metre by the afternoon, superintendent Craig said.
"The community was ready for that to hit when it arrived," he said, "There was a couple of houses that had some flooding issues. But in general, the community still with that very well. They put they put the flood gates in and everything worked as it should."
Significant road and infrastructure works in the area tested emergency responders, superintendent Craig said, and crews were able to gather new information on floodwater behaviour as a result.
Forecasters have said that the weather pushing across the state earlier in the week has largely moved off the coast, and a low pressure system has formed in the Tasman Sea. A trough was lingering over the northern inland parts of the state, where major flooding was still occurring in parts of the Namoi and Gwydir rivers, as well as toward the Queensland border.
Forecasters said that, while the main drivers of the rain event had largely moved on, remanent troughs and weather were significant enough to see isolated rain and thunderstorms through Sunday and Monday in the northern inland and other parts of the state.
Around 40 millimetres of rain fell over Williamtown in the Lower Hunter, in the 24 hours to 9am Friday, as a band of heavy rainfall moved down the valley toward Newcastle. Around 15 millimetres had fallen across parts of the Lower Hunter Saturday morning.
A brief respite of clearer skies heading toward Monday in Newcastle is expected to give way to further isolated showers through the end of the week.