SYDNEY (Reuters) - Sydney recorded its wettest year in 164 years as authorities braced for major floods in Australia's east on Thursday, with more heavy downpours expected to fall over the next three days.
With almost three months of 2022 still to go, Australia's largest city has recorded 2,200 mm of rain in a year for the first time since records began in 1858.
By Thursday afternoon, Sydney had received about 2,213 mm (87 inches) of rainfall for the year, surpassing the previous record of 2,194 mm set in 1950, official data showed.
More than 58 mm fell over five hours since 9 a.m. local time (2200 GMT, Wednesday), the Bureau of Meteorology's (BoM) live data showed.
More downpours are forecast for the rest of 2022, as Australia's east coast remains in the grip of a rare third straight year of the La Nina weather phenomenon.
"Heading into late spring and summer, we're still in this active La Nina period so we can expect more and more rainfall and that does increase the risk of flooding," BoM forecaster Jonathan How told ABC television.
GRAPHIC: Sydney records wettest year in 164 years https://graphics.reuters.com/AUSTRALIA-WEATHER/zgpomqjdmpd/chart.png
During the past two years, floods have struck Sydney's suburbs three times, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.
With a wild weather system expected to dump heavy rains through the weekend across a wide swathe of Australia's east, authorities warned Sydney residents to watch out for flash flooding and stay away from flooded roads.
Many dams and rivers are already at full capacity. The New South Wales state government has committed to raising the height of the wall at Sydney's Warragamba Dam, which supplies 80% of the city's water, to help prevent future floods.
'MORE WATER COMING'
Some of the state's rural inland towns were already flooded, with television footage showing damaged roads and residents moving farm animals to higher ground.
New South Wales emergency crews said there were 47 flood warnings in place across the state, with moderate flooding expected in parts of Sydney on Saturday.
The situation will only get more dangerous over the next few weeks, emergency services spokesperson Scott McLennan said.
"Are we at the worst? We don't know, but we do know that there is more water coming," McLennan told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
(Reporting by Renju Jose and Lewis Jackson; Editing by Richard Pullin & Simon Cameron-Moore)