Sydney & Wollongong, New South Wales, August 1998

Flood - Sydney and Wollongong

Quick Statistics

1 Fatalities
$40 million Insurance Costs

During the period 17 – 18 August, a low pressure trough moved along the central and southern New South Wales coast, causing heavy rainfall. On 17 August between the hours 6 pm to 9 pm, a thunderstorm remained over the Wollongong area dumping heavy falls. Minor flooding had occurred on the days leading up to the storm, and on 17 August the flood peak occurred in most catchments between 7 pm and 8 pm. Due to the flash flooding, many areas were isolated until 9pm.

Major roads and train lines to Wollongong were disrupted and mudslides were reported on some roads, including Bulli Pass. A railway embankment failure at Coledale resulted in train delays for up to a week. Fifty homes were flooded in north Wollongong, and it was reported that homes along the coast were dislodged from their foundations. One person drowned while attempting to cross a flooded creek at Bellambi.

Damage recorded in Sydney suburbs included; erosion of beach side suburbs, 14 metropolitan roads blocked, power loss to thousands of homes and trees and power lines brought down by winds reported to have reached 92 km/h.

Due to the impact of the flood, the State Emergency Services (SES) obtained access to the Natural Disaster Relief Arrangements (NDRA) funding which assisted in the response efforts. During the cleanup operation up to 450 personnel assisted and 41 SES volunteer units sent teams into Wollongong.

Rainfall levels recorded for 24 hours to 09:00am on 18 August were:
Mt Ousley: 445mm
Bulli Pass: 410mm
Keiraville: 337mm
Figtree: 313mm
Wollongong: 316mm

The Insurance Council of Australia estimated the 1998 damage at $40 million, with the 2011 estimated normalised cost of $97 million.


Information Sources

I Hunt and P KofodA Fletcher, ‘Wollongong storm of August 1998: a survey of affected residents two years on’ (2002) Australian Journal of Emergency Management, Vol.17 No.1, Autumn 2002, pp.38-41
Bureau of Meteorology, Summary of significant severe thunderstorm events in NSW 1990/2000, website viewed 8 July 2011
I Hunt and P Kofod, ‘Wollonging Floods,’ 40th Annual Conference, NSW Floodplain Management Authorities, viewed online 28 January 2015
Illawarra Mercury, ‘Storm widow remembers flood tragedy’, 14 August 2008, website viewed 8 July 2011
Insurance Council of Australia, Historical disaster statistics, March 2012, website viewed 25 May 2012
State Emergency Service, Emergency response to the Wollongong floods August 1998, 5 April 2011, website viewed 8 July 2011
State Emergency Services, The August 1998 Wollongong storm, website viewed 8 July 2011