Prepare for cyclones

In Queensland, tropical cyclones pose a serious risk to homes, business, and communities. Many lives have been lost at sea and also on land, so preparing your family for cyclones is really important. You can prepare for your family by completing a Harden Up plan.

On average, 4.7 cyclones affect Queensland's weather each year, with almost twice as many occurring during a La Nina weather pattern, which caused the severe weather events during the summer of 2010-2011. Cyclones bring destructive winds and could cause a storm surge as they cross the coastline. The extent of destructive winds varies between cyclones and a Tropical Cyclone Category System classifies cyclones form a scale of 1 to 5. Category 5 is the most destructive, with typical gusts over open flat land of more than 280 km/h.

Cyclone Larry, which devastated areas between Babinda and Tully in March 2006, and Cyclone Yasi, which devastated Tully Heads and Cardwell in 2011, both became marginal category 5 tropical cyclones for a few hours.

Tropical cyclones are dangerous for three reasons. First they produce destructive winds, second they bring heavy rainfall and consequently flooding, and third a cyclone could cause a storm surge and inundate low-lying coastal areas. Wind gusts associated with cyclones range from 90km/h up to 280 km/h, which destroy property and propel building debris, whole houses, and trees like missiles, sometimes with lethal consequences.

If you decide to stay within your home when a cyclone is approaching, make sure that each family members understands that destructive winds will decrease significantly as the eye of the storm passes, only to be followed by the same destructive winds, but in the opposite direction. Your local ABC radio station will provide updates and warnings. Keep everyone inside until local authorities advise that it's safe to venture outside again. 

Ensure that your Harden Up plan is up-to-date and that each member of your household knows where the your emergency kit is stored and what to do in an emergency. Develop an Evacuation Plan with your family or household. Identify the nearest high ground and the safest routes to that place. Await advice from local authorities about the need to evacuate. 

Cyclone Watch

A tropical cyclone watch is issued for coastal communities when the onset of gales is expected within 48 hours, but not within 24 hours. When a cyclone watch is issued, you've usually got one or two days to prepare. However, cyclones are unpredictable and can change course rapidly, so prepare your family as soon as a cyclone watch is issued for your area.

  • You and your family should recheck your property for any loose material and store items, which might become missiles in strong winds, in a safe place.
  • Get to your nearest service station and fill your vehicles' fuel tanks.
  • Check your Emergency Kit and fill water containers.
  • Ensure household members know which room you've chosen as your 'safe room' (the strongest part of the house without external windows), which is where you'll shelter.
  • Talk to your family about what to do in the event of a cyclone warning or an evacuation.
  • Tune to your local ABC radio or TV for further information and warnings.
  • Check that neighbours are aware of the situation and are preparing in a similar fashion. Ask them if they need assistance with shifting heavy outdoor items.

A tropical cyclone warning is issued for coastal communities when the onset of gales is expected within 24 hours, or is already occurring. Your local authority or council will provide essential direction as the event evolves. The following actions may be warranted.

  • If requested by local authorities, collect children from school or childcare centre and go home.
  • Park vehicles under solid shelter, with the hand brake on and in gear.
  • Put wooden or plastic outdoor furniture in your pool or inside with other loose items.
  • Close shutters or board-up or heavily tape all windows. Draw curtains and lock doors.
  • Pack an Evacuation Kit of warm clothes, essential medications, baby formula, nappies, valuables, important papers, photos and mementos in waterproof bags to be taken with your Emergency Kit
  • Remain indoors with your pets.
  • Stay tuned to your local ABC radio or TV for further information.

Based on predicted wind speeds and storm surge heights, evacuation may be necessary. Official advice will be given on local radio and TV regarding safe routes to evacuation centres and when to move.

  • Wear closed in shoes and tough clothing for protection.
  • Lock doors; turn off power, gas, and water; take your Emergency Kit and Evacuation Kit with you.
  • If evacuating inland (out of town), take pets and leave early to avoid heavy traffic, flooding and wind hazards.
  • If evacuating to a public shelter or higher location, follow police and State Emergency Services (SES) directions.
  • If going to a public shelter, take bedding needs, and books or games for children.
  • I haven't been able to relocate pets earlier, lock them inside and with plenty of food and water.


If you shelter-in-place when the cyclone strikes

  • Disconnect all electrical appliances. Listen to your battery-operated radio for updates.
  • Stay inside and shelter in your 'safe room' in the strongest part of the building.
  • Be sure to keep your Emergency Kit and Evacuation Kit with you.
  • If the building starts to break up, protect yourself with mattresses, rugs or blankets under a strong table or bench or hold onto a solid fixture, such as a post or water pipe.
  • Beware the calm 'eye' or middle the cyclone. If the wind drops, don't assume the cyclone is over, because violent winds will soon resume from another direction.
  • Wait for the official 'all clear' from authorities before going outside to assess damage.
  • If you are out driving, park the car with the handbrake on and in gear and remain in the vehicle. Park well away from the sea and clear of trees, power lines, rivers and creeks. 


After the cyclone

  • Don't go outside until authorities advise that the cyclone has passed and your region is safe.
  • Check for any gas leaks.
  • Don't use electric appliances if wet.
  • Listen to local ABC radio for official warnings and advice.
  • If you have to evacuate, or did so earlier, don't return until advised. Use the recommended route and don't rush.
  • Beware of damaged power lines, bridges, buildings, trees, and don't enter floodwaters.
  • Continue to follow advice from authorities and all warnings and don't go sightseeing.
  • Check your neighbours are safe and offer assistance where required.
  • To avoid network congestion, only make essential phone calls, to ensure all your family members are safe.


The Standard Emergency Warning Signal (SEWS) is sounded by radio and TV stations prior to reading out the tropical cyclone warning for a category 2 or higher cyclone.

When a cyclone approaches the coast and a storm surge is likely to cause inundation, your local Disaster Management Group will coordinate the evacuation of vulnerable areas. Early evacuation is important because the storm surge precedes the cyclone crossing the coast and could swamp coastal areas destroying roads and bridges making evacuation hazardous if not impossible. The retreating surge or ebb surge can cause further damage.