Cyclones and Storms…What You Need to Know

Every year, we are warned of the potential for a cyclone to hit our area. And every year that it doesn’t, we become a little bit more complaisant in our preparation.  


Cyclone season officially  starts in December and will continue till at least April next year.  


The Bureau of Meteorology estimates that two to four cyclones will form in the Coral Sea this season, although it is impossible to accurately pre-empt the number or force of any cyclone until it has formed.  


The only thing we know for sure is that cyclones happen every year. It is not a matter of “if” but a matter of “where” and “when”. We need to be prepared.


Tropical Cyclone Watch

A Cyclone Watch is issued when the gales associated with a tropical cyclone are expected to affect coastal or island communities within 48 hours.  A Cyclone Warning is issued when the gales associated with a tropical cyclone will affect coastal or island communities within 24 hours.


What Does the Category System Mean?

  • Category 1: Negligible house damage, damage to some crops, trees and caravans. Boats may  drag their mooring. Gales have gusts to 125km/h (strong gales)
  • Category 2: Minor house damage and damage to signs, trees and caravans.  Heavy damage to crops. Risk of power failure. Small crafts may break their moorings. Destructive winds with gusts of 125 to 169km/hr.
  • Category 3: Some roof and structural damage. Some caravans destroyed and likely power failure. Very destructive winds with gusts of 170 to 224km/hr.
  • Category 4: Significant roofing loss and structural damage. Caravans destroyed and dangerous airborne debris. Widespread power failures. Very destructive winds with gusts of 225 to 279 km/hr.
  • Category 5: Extremely dangerous with widespread destruction. Very destructive winds with gusts of more than 280 km/hr.


Cyclone Kits

The Queensland Government State Disaster Management Group suggests that your Cyclone Kit has two parts:

  • an Emergency Kit, which can be prepared in advance and useful for any emergency; and
  • an Evacuation Kit, which is packed at the time of the event.

Emergency Kit: An emergency kit is one that is always ready and can be used in any emergency. In fact, it’s a version of your regular camping kit.

  • A portable radio and a torch, both with spare batteries.
  • Stocks of fresh water and canned food. If you have pets, put some food a side for them too.
  • Matches, fuel lamp, portable stove, cooking gear, utensils and waterproof containers and bags.
  • A first aid kit and first aid manual.
  • Some cash (ATM’s and EPTOS won’t work if the power is down).
  • Emergency phone numbers, including police, ambulance, emergency 
services, and electrical/gas service. Include the contact details of family or friends outside your area who can act as a contact point if your family becomes separated.
  • Masking tape, tarps, ropes and other items to “batten down”.

Evacuation Kit: an evacuation kit is prepared at the time of the event. Your evacuation kit should fit in a waterproof container. Aside from including your emergency kit, it should also contain:

  • Warm clothes
  • Essential medications
  • Valuables
  • Important papers, like your house and content insurance policy, passport.
  • Small keepsakes you cannot live without. You may have to forgo Grandad’s wall clock, but consider photographs.

As you prepare your kits, also consider preparing a plan. A Cyclone Plan can include:

  • Location of gas/electricity turn off valves or switches and how to turn them off.
  • Strong areas of the house where you can weather the storm, like the 
bathroom or the hallway.
  • Enough insurance coverage. Make sure you understand the details 
regarding cyclones or floods.
  • Arrangement with a friend or family who will act as your outside contact point.
  • Track and Threat Map to track the Cyclone Warning Centre’s Watches and Warnings.
  • A discussion with your children about cyclones and storms.
  • A discussion with your neighbours, particularly elderly or those who are new to the neighbourhood, to check they are prepared.


Get Prepared While It Is Still Approaching

Check that your home is in sound conditions, paying attention to roof and leaves.

  • Trim any tree branches hanging over the roof
  • Clear your property of any loose items that could become airborne during a storm
  • Review your Emergency Kit Upon a warning that your area may get hit.
  • Store all outdoor loose items inside the house, unless your garden shed is cyclone proof. Put garden furniture in the pool (the wind won’t blow them away), and fill your garbage bins with water.
  • Fuel vehicles and park them under solid cover (avoid trees).
  • Board up windows or use heavy-duty tape.
  • Pack your evacuation kit, including your emergency kit.
  • Disconnect all electrical appliances and turn off gas. Official evacuation notices may be broadcasted on television and radio stations. Leave as early as possible as there will be congestion. Wear closed shoes and protective clothing. Take your Evacuation Kit with you.


When It Hits

  • If you are driving, stop, park in a sheltered zone away from water, trees and power lines. Stay inside your car.
  • In a house, keep away from windows and stay put in the strongest part of the house.
  • Put your pets in a room, away from the rest of the family.
  • If the house starts to break up, protect yourself best you can with mattresses or rugs, take refuge under a strong table or hold on to a solid fixture like a pipe.
  • Keep listening to radio updates and advice
  • Be aware of the eye of the cyclone, when winds drop suddenly. They will soon start from the opposite direction.


After The Event

  • Stay inside until officially advised to. Or if you have evacuated, stay away until there is official notice that it is safe to do so.
  • Refrain from roaming the neighbourhood to check damage. You’ll only expose yourself and others to unnecessary risks.
  • Check for gas leaks but stay away from electrical appliances as they most likely will be wet.
  • Beware of fallen power lines, big or small, damaged infrastructure like bridges, roads, and buildings.
  • Avoid making unnecessary calls.
  • If safe to do so, check on your neighbour.


Emergency Contact Numbers

  • Police, Fire and Ambulance – call 000.
  • Hotline numbers for Local Government Emergency Co-ordination Centre and Disaster Evacuation Centres will be advertised on radio and television if activated.


Further Information

Contact Council on 4727 9000 or visit Council’s website at www.townsville.qld.gov.au.

You can also find more information on Townsville City Council’s emergency information website.