Schools, homes hit as storm closes in

| 21.05,09. 04:59 PM |

Schools, homes hit as storm closes in

May 21, 2009 02:00pm

HEAVY rain has forced the closure of 200 schools and left 2000 homes without power on the NSW north coast as residents begin to experience the wild weather that has wreaked havoc in Queensland.

Gallery: Wild weather heads south

Rain that has swamped Queensland's southeast has headed south and the Bureau of Meteorology has issued a severe weather warning for the NSW northern rivers, northern tablelands and mid-north coast.

The BoM website says the low off the Queensland coast is expected to bring very heavy rain, high winds and rough seas to northeast NSW today.

There are flood warnings in place for the Tweed, Wilsons, Bellinger, Orara and Brunswick Rivers.

In the 27 hours to 10am, 170mm of rain fell over the Tweed River area, with further heavy rain expected to cause minor flooding at nearby Murwillumbah.

In the 12 hours to 8am, 45mm fell in the Bellinger Valley area, with a further 120mm expected to cause minor flooding in Thora in the next 24 hours.

A NSW State Emergency Service (SES) spokeswoman said about 240 public and Catholic schools had been closed.

"The schools are not running educational programs but if students are requiring supervision they are open for that,'' she said.

"Obviously (this is) so that people aren't travelling, as we're certainly not encouraging unnecessary travel at this point given the weather situation.''

At the peak of the bad weather overnight, about 16,000 Country Energy customers on the NSW far north coast without power, but supplies were progressively restored today.

The Tweed area was worst affected, when a lightning strike knocked out powerlines to the north and south of the population centre, leaving 12,000 homes and businesses cut off.

Police have set up a public information and inquiry centre to provide information about displaced families, road closures, welfare assistance and other matters relating to the weather problems. It can be contacted on freecall 1800 227 228.

The inquiry hotline does not replace the SES emergency hotline.

People seeking emergency assistance during a flood or storm should still call the SES on 132 500.

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