The east coast cyclone lifted roofs and left around 215,000 people without power in Sydney and across the state. The Bureau of Meteorology predicted that the extreme weather would continue during Tuesday night, and hundreds of Sydney residents were warned to prepare for possible evacuation after authorities warned they might have to open the Manly Dam to prevent it overflowing.

Opening the dam would enable the State Emergency Service to control flooding, but would inevitably affect some homes.

The three fatalities all occurred in Dungog, around 80km north of Newcastle, which endured some of the worst conditions. The Dungog Chronicle reported that one elderly woman was swept away by flash floods as she tried to save her stranded dog, which survived. Four houses in the town were washed away by the torrent, and numerous residents were rescued from their rooftops.

One resident, David, told NBC Radio that the bodies of animals were floating in the streets: “People don’t understand, Dungog has been smashed. The town is a mess. People have got nothing – it’s just been horrendous,” he said.

The emergency service sent texts to around 100,000 people warning them of the storm, but there was little people could do to guard against winds of up to 135km an hour. An incredible 312mm of rain fell in Dungog in just 24 hours.

In Sydney, the cruise ship Carnival Spirit was stranded outside the harbour, which was closed. Meanwhile at least 300 sets of traffic lights were reported to be out across the city.