For over 18 months I have been helping visitors to Cairns book and organise their holidays by working in an Information Centre. ...

Sunday, 8 January 2017


Tara's cyclone preparation:
1)Go to the bottle shop.
2)Have plenty of torches, batteries a radio & water.
3)Tidy up the yard, tape windows.
4)Go to the bottle shop again (just to be sure).

I have always been interested in the weather, I blame my late mother for that. What's the weather going to be for the day? Will there be a storm in the afternoon? I love Witnessing amazing formations of storm clouds on the horizon and best of all, a wicked lightning storm with wine in hand!

I grew up in Sydney, famously known for it's cracking summer storms and cloud formations.

Kind of an Independence Day movie experience......Spooky.

With the easy access to the Bureau of Meteorology's radar online or via various apps, my obsession with the weather has stepped up a notch! You can watch these weather systems coming and in days of late in Cairns, literally praying that those storm clouds on the Tablelands make it over the range and drench our dry water deprived city.

And finally....Wet Season has arrived here in the Tropical North of Australia! My plants in my garden are rejoicing, the frogs are singing, the dams are filling and the cane toads already lay squished on the roads.
The rain radar on the Weatherzone app, iphone.

Our problem in Cairns is that all the fun stuff (like those wicked lightning storms) seem to dance all around us and not ON us. The Tablelands surrounding Cairns, the Daintree Rainforest, Port Douglas and the wettest parts of the country, Babinda and Tully all seem to cop an amazing light show whilst we seem to be under restricted air space!

Yeah...nah. It just ain't the same.

But we do have severe weather events in our summer months (wet season) called Cyclones. These are the Southern Hemisphere's (Pacific Region) versions of Typhoons or Hurricanes. Most people here in Cairns are very blasé about cyclones. A cyclone pending means possible time off work and massive consumption of alcohol (aka... a cyclone party, because there is nothing else to do but drink during one). I have been through a few cyclones in my time, my first big one was Cyclone Larry in 2006. Larry was a category 5 (a 3 in Cairns) storm which hit south of Cairns on top of the township of Innisfail. We categorize our Tropical Cyclones in Australia and Fiji according to the below charts.

CategoryStrongest gust (km/h)Typical effects 
1 Tropical Cyclone Less than 125 km/h
Minimal house damage. Damage to some crops, trees and caravans. Boats may drag moorings.
2 Tropical Cyclone125 - 164 km/h
Destructive winds 
Minor house damage. Significant damage to signs, trees and caravans. Heavy damage to some crops. Risk of power failure. Small boats may break moorings. 
3 Severe Tropical Cyclone165 - 224 km/h
Very destructive winds 
Some roof and structural damage. Some caravans destroyed. Power failure likely. 
4 Severe Tropical Cyclone225 - 279 km/h
Very destructive winds 
Significant roofing and structural damage. Many caravans destroyed and blown away. Dangerous airborne debris. Widespread power failures. 
5 Severe Tropical CycloneMore than 280 km/h
Extremely destructive winds 
Extremely dangerous with widespread destruction.

I have been through my fair share of cyclones experiences in my time. I've also been through the aftermath, like this one time (at band camp) my tour bus got bogged in the middle of no where on the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory. We had to push the darn bus through snake infested blood red flood waters to freedom (this was ex-cyclone YASI). The other time, whilst on tour in New Zealand on the Interislander Ferry travelling from the South Island to the North Island we got caught in ex-tropical cyclone ITA in massive waves causing every sole on board to be spectacularly sick.

Severe weather events like cyclones are frightening, exciting and interesting all at once but are nothing to scoff at. You may not sit back an have a beer and put your feet up at your cyclone party until all your prepping work is done. If your travelling through the region, do your research, listen to advice or even delay/change your plans to stay safe. 

On the plus side...You have plenty of time to get organised to clean up your yard so there is no flying debris, tape your windows to stop large shards breaking free, stock up your canned foods & fill the tubs with water, make sure you have a small battery powered radio and even buy yourself a personal generator from Bunnings.


Cyclone Larry (March 2006) & Cyclone Yasi (Jan 2011) Were both a force to be reckoned with. I lived through Larry and Yasi was the system that dumped a whole lot of rain on Central Australia causing my tour bus to get stuck. Check out their track map and some amazing aftermath images below. 

Cyclone Larry 2006.
Cyclone Yasi 2011.
Amazing devastation of banana plantations around Innisfail. Photo by BOM 2006.
 The State of the School in the aftermath. Photo from SMH newspaper 2006.
One of the many twisted signs. Photo from Fairfax Media 2006.

Images of Cardwell & Port Hinchinbrook. 2011Yasi 
It's hard to imagine that this could happen to you. Yes, you may be without power for days. Yes, your crop could be destroyed causing massive loss of income. Yes, your home can be damaged causing items inside your home to be doused in rain or sea. Yes, there is a possibility you will be ordered to evacuate and sleep in a shelter and YES, you have to realise these events are life threatening and to take cyclones seriously!!! It's not all about the party and time off work.

If you follow the correct advice and don't do anything stupid... you should stay safe. More advice from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology is found here>>> 

As I write this we have a pretty hefty Monsoon trough sitting north of Cairns dumping loads of rain, causing flash flooding and storms. Although Cyclones and flooding can cause some terrifying moments these events can create beautiful images too. The Barron Falls are in full flow at the moment. Check out the link below>>>
Explore Tropical North Queensland's Face Book page.

We love this part of the world and we accept the good and the bad. Most of the year we have superlative warm sunny weather ideal for holidays for those coming from interstate or overseas. I love the climate here... that's why I have moved back! It's an amazing beautiful part of our country... even if it is a little rough around the edges.

I'll leave you now with the words by Australian poet, Dorothea Mackellar...
I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!


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