Storm surge

Image courtesy of, and copyrighted to, the Bureau of Meteorology

Evacuation advice during cyclones in the Cairns region is based on storm surge, not wind, so it's critical to know whether you live in a storm tide surge zone. 

Storm surge is a rise in the ocean level associated with cyclones. It is  caused by high winds pushing on the ocean's surface and lower than normal air pressure from the storm. As a cyclone reaches the coast, huge winds may whip up the sea and push the dome of water over low-lying coastal areas. In other words the sea may reach much further inland than it does during high tide.

If a storm surge coincides with a high tide the sea can travel even further inland, up to several kilometres. The damage caused in New York by Hurricane Sandy is a good example of what can happen when storm surge strikes. 

The height of the surge is strongly influenced by geographic factors such as the shape of the seabed and coastline, the intensity and angle of approach of the cyclone to the shore and prevailing currents. The Bureau of Meteorology gives an advance warning of likely levels if a storm surge is expected, as part of its tropical cyclone advice and warning system. 

There are three key ways to find out if you are in a storm tide surge zone.

Meter/power box: check the inside of your meter/power box cover for a storm surge sticker in red, orange or yellow.

On-line: use the Storm Tide Property Search tool on our website.

Maps: free map books are available from your nearest Council customer service centre.

Last updated: 06 February 2015