Australian storm heads south, thousands affected

Massive swells at Cape Solander, Sydney (AAP)
Massive swells at Cape Solander, Sydney (AAP)

The extreme storm cell lashing Australia's east coast has claimed at least three lives.

A body was located in a submerged car near Bowral in the New South Wales' Southern Highlands, and a man's body has been retrieved in a separate car in Sydney's southwest. Another man was found dead in the Cotter River near Canberra.

The severe storm has washed houses away and left thousands without power, with the worst gradually moving south.

New South Wales, including Sydney, was struck hardest, with wind, rains, gales and rough seas forcing hundreds to evacuate their homes.

A man's body was retrieved from his submerged car in Leppington at around 11:30am today (local time). In a separate incident at Bowral, the body of a 65-year-old man was recovered at 8:30am today in Mittagong Creek.

Warnings were issued for several areas along the coast overnight.

Water levels exceeded the highest tide of the year last night around 8:30pm.

Australian storm heads south, thousands affected

(Australian Bureau of Meteorology)

In the past 48 hours, the State Emergency Service has responded to more than 200 flood rescues, just a fraction of the 8000 calls for help received.

According to spokesperson Phil Campbell, they're carrying out a flood rescue every six minutes, a "really disturbing statistic".

Power is still out to around 30,000 homes on the central and south coasts. 

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology says the immediate threat of damaging winds and heavy rain leading to flash floods has eased.

Dangerous surf is expected along the NSW coast, which may lead to localised damage and coastal erosion this morning. People have been advised to stay well clear of the beach and surf-exposed areas.

Wind gusts are reaching up to 109 km/h, and highest wave heights exceeding 12 metres.

Rainfall is expected to persist over the far southeast of the state this morning, but it's not expected to cause flash-flooding.