VIDEO: Relief for residents as river peaks lower than expected

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NSW State Emergency Service - warnings and updates

A tense night for residents in the northern NSW town of Maclean has ended in relief after the swollen Clarence River peaked below the expected level.

The State Emergency Service said there were no reports of inundated properties at 6.30am and the river was holding steady at 3.08 metres, below the predicted 3.2-metre peak.

However authorities were closely monitoring conditions as the levee wall in Maclean is 3.3 metres.

More than 750 residents in low-lying parts of the town were ordered to evacuate just after 5.30pm on Tuesday based on the Bureau of Meteorology's predicted flood peak, which was expected at 6am.

NSW SES spokeswoman Becky Gollings said the evacuation order remained in place on Wednesday morning.

"We're pretty confident that we won't get any inundation but, because the peak prediction is just under the crest of the levee, we've still got that evacuation order in place. It's just too fine to call it. We're always going to put people's safety first," she said.

"Once that peak reaches and it starts to subside we will get our crews in there to assess the area and if it's all deemed safe then we will issue the all clear."

About 190 people on Harwood Island, downstream of Maclean, were also ordered to evacuate at 7.15pm on Tuesday, but properties in that area also appeared to have escaped flooding.

Harwood Island and Maclean, which is about 45 kilometres downstream of Grafton, were the last towns where authorities feared there would be major flooding before the Clarence River flows out to sea.

In Grafton, where the river peaked just two centimetres below the city's levee wall on Tuesday, residents were allowed back into their homes about 9.30pm as the river continued to recede.

Flood levels there were the biggest in the city's history.

"This is a sight that has never been seen by white man," said the mayor of Clarence Valley, Richie Williamson.

"The Clarence has never been recorded above 7.9 metres. It's an awesome spectacle."

Bushgrove. Photo: Barry O'Farrell via Twitter

Bushgrove. Photo: Barry O'Farrell via Twitter

Photo: FRANK REDWARD

Photo: FRANK REDWARD

Ulnarra where the levies have seen water over the top. Photo: Barry O'Farrell via Twitter

Ulnarra where the levies have seen water over the top. Photo: Barry O'Farrell via Twitter

Grafton. Photo: Barry O'Farrell via Twitter

Grafton. Photo: Barry O'Farrell via Twitter

On approach to Grafton. Photo: Barry O'Farrell via Twitter

On approach to Grafton. Photo: Barry O'Farrell via Twitter

The swollen Clarence River. Photo: Barry O'Farrell via Twitter

The swollen Clarence River. Photo: Barry O'Farrell via Twitter

Blair Smith, Andrew Forteneery and Danny Hampson battled the strong winds at Port Macquarie on Monday. Photo: Nigel McNeil/Port Macquarie News

Blair Smith, Andrew Forteneery and Danny Hampson battled the strong winds at Port Macquarie on Monday. Photo: Nigel McNeil/Port Macquarie News

Coffs Harbour ... flash flooding from rising storm water closed roads all over NSW.

Coffs Harbour ... flash flooding from rising storm water closed roads all over NSW.

Big waves ... Coogee Beach on Tuesday morning.

Big waves ... Coogee Beach on Tuesday morning.

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Some snapshots of the heavy rainfall in and around Wauchope. Pics were taken at around 7.30am on Tuesday. Photo: Wauchope Gazette

Port Macquarie Marine Rescue looking to assist a stricken yachtsman near the Westport Club on Monday. Photo: Nigel McNeil/Port Macquarie News

Port Macquarie Marine Rescue looking to assist a stricken yachtsman near the Westport Club on Monday. Photo: Nigel McNeil/Port Macquarie News

Matt Baker on Windmill Hill in Port Macquarie on Monday. Photo: Port Macquarie News

Matt Baker on Windmill Hill in Port Macquarie on Monday. Photo: Port Macquarie News

Sandbags were playing a part in Port Macquarie on Monday. Photo: Port Macquarie News

Sandbags were playing a part in Port Macquarie on Monday. Photo: Port Macquarie News

SES workers prepare sandbags for use around Port Macquarie on Monday. Photo: Port Macquarie News

SES workers prepare sandbags for use around Port Macquarie on Monday. Photo: Port Macquarie News

Louise Dix, with Joe, Roland and Nick Bullock (and dog Charlie) at the viewing platform at Lighthouse Beach on Monday. Photo: Port Macquarie News

Louise Dix, with Joe, Roland and Nick Bullock (and dog Charlie) at the viewing platform at Lighthouse Beach on Monday. Photo: Port Macquarie News

Wet weather in Newcastle on Monday. Photo: Newcastle Herald

Wet weather in Newcastle on Monday. Photo: Newcastle Herald

Wet weather in Newcastle on Monday. Photo: Newcastle Herald

Wet weather in Newcastle on Monday. Photo: Newcastle Herald

Wet weather in Newcastle on Monday. Photo: Newcastle Herald

Wet weather in Newcastle on Monday. Photo: Newcastle Herald

Wet weather in Newcastle on Monday. Photo: Newcastle Herald

Wet weather in Newcastle on Monday. Photo: Newcastle Herald

Wet weather in Newcastle on Monday. Photo: Newcastle Herald

Wet weather in Newcastle on Monday. Photo: Newcastle Herald

Heavy seas build at Bronte Beach in Sydney on Tuesday. Photo Peter Rae

Heavy seas build at Bronte Beach in Sydney on Tuesday. Photo Peter Rae

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is seen as the remnants of Cyclone Oswald pass Sydney on Tuesday. Photo by Mick Tsikas

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is seen as the remnants of Cyclone Oswald pass Sydney on Tuesday. Photo by Mick Tsikas

Heavy seas build at Bronte Beach in Sydney on Tuesday. Photo Peter Rae

Heavy seas build at Bronte Beach in Sydney on Tuesday. Photo Peter Rae

Heavy seas build at Bronte Beach in Sydney on Tuesday. Photo Peter Rae

Heavy seas build at Bronte Beach in Sydney on Tuesday. Photo Peter Rae

Heavy seas build at Bronte Beach in Sydney on Tuesday. Photo Peter Rae

Heavy seas build at Bronte Beach in Sydney on Tuesday. Photo Peter Rae

Heavy seas build at Bronte Beach in Sydney on Tuesday. Photo Peter Rae

Heavy seas build at Bronte Beach in Sydney on Tuesday. Photo Peter Rae

Port Macquarie's wild weather inundates the coast with sea foam. Photo: Port Macquarie News

Port Macquarie's wild weather inundates the coast with sea foam. Photo: Port Macquarie News

Port Macquarie's wild weather inundates the coast with sea foam. Photo: Port Macquarie News

Port Macquarie's wild weather inundates the coast with sea foam. Photo: Port Macquarie News

Port Macquarie's wild weather inundates the coast with sea foam. Photo: Port Macquarie News

Port Macquarie's wild weather inundates the coast with sea foam. Photo: Port Macquarie News

RAW VISION: Dangerous surf and waves of up to 10 metres are battering NSW beaches, tempting surfers and body-boarders into the water.