Cyclone FAQ

I live in a low lying area and I don't know where to go if there is a cyclone. What should I do?

What should I take if I have to leave my house?

How will I know the cyclone is coming?

How long will the cyclone last?

What is the best number for me to ring in an emergency?

Where do I go if I'm concerned about my safety and can't help myself?

What should I do if the power and/or water go off?

Where can I get sandbags?

What should I do with my rubbish bins?

1. I live in a low lying area and I don't know where to go if there is a cyclone. What should I do?

  • Residents in storm tide surge areas should make pre-arrangements for temporary accommodation with family, friends or neighbours in 'higher places' outside these areas. If you live on one of these areas there will be a coloured sticker in the property's electricity meter box.
  • An evacuation order for a cyclone may be issued if lives are at risk from a storm tide surge.
  • If storm tide is not a threat and an evacuation order is not issued, you should stay home, make yourself as secure as possible and listen to the radio for updates. Your home is often the safest place.
  • If you feel where you live is not secure, activate your household emergency plan and make your way to your pre-arranged temporary accommodation.
  • Evacuation Centres are places of refuge for people in storm tide surge areas with nowhere else to go. They will be activated only when imperative.
  • The Disaster Coordination Centre will publicly advise if any places of refuge are opened through local ABC and commercial radio stations as well as the Council's official websites.
  • Read more about Evacuation.

2. What should I take if I have to leave my house?

  • Do not go to any place of refuge unless it has been officially advised as open.
  • Take your emergency kit with you, whether going to another home or place of refuge. You will need enough supplies in your kit for the number of people with you.
  • If you have children, take games, toys or books.
  • Register with the National Registration and Inquiry System (NRIS) or call 1800 727 077.

3. How will I know the cyclone is coming?

  • Cyclone advice is issued as a watch or a warning through the Bureau of Meteorology. Other weather emergencies such as storms, heavy rain and tsunami are also advised through the Bureau - you can check the website here at any time.
  • A Cyclone Watch is issued 48 hours before a cyclone's predicted landfall. Information is updated every six hours. You can track a cyclone's predicted path yourself by using a cyclone tracking map.
  • A Cyclone Warning is issued as soon as stronger winds are expected to affect coastal or island communities within 24 hours. The warning will tell you where the cyclone is, what its movements are, how strong it is and predict areas under threat. A Cyclone Warning is renewed every three hours, with hourly warnings issued if the cyclone moves close to the coast.

4. How long will the cyclone last?

  • An average cyclone life cycle is nine days - from formation to gale force winds during the most intense stage, to eventual decay and dissipation. Cyclones can last for days or even weeks, hovering out to sea and often moving erratically.
  • Beware the calm 'eye' of the cyclone when conditions may ease. If the wind drops, the cyclone is not over. Violent winds will soon resume from another direction. Wait for the official 'all clear' and stay safe inside.
  • Even without a direct hit from the cyclone, strong winds and heavy rain can impact on areas many kilometres from the cyclone's centre.
  • Stay tuned to these local radio for updates: ABC Cairns 801AM, 106.7FM, 95.5FM and ABC Cairns (Mossman and Port Douglas) 639AM, 90.1FM.

5. What is the best number for me to ring in an emergency?

  • Council's emergency contact DURING a cyclone - 4044 3377.
  • SES – 132 500.
  • Police, Fire, Ambulance – 000.
  • Ergon Energy – 132 296.

6. Where do I go if I'm concerned about my safety and can't help myself?

  • Cairns Regional Council's disaster evacuation system is based on self evacuation. However, residents who meet the following criteria may be able to register with the Council's Evacuation and Recovery Register by contacting the Disaster Management Unit on 4044 3044. Criteria include:
  • Frail, aged and/or have a disability and
  • Live alone and
  • Do not have friends or relatives in the local area and
  • Do not have transport and
  • Able to administer your own medication (if required) and
  • Not receiving significant assistance or support from a funded service provider.
  • If evacuation is required, those on the Register may be helped to evacuate and taken to a designated area.
  • Unless you have been advised to evacuate, always stay inside and keep calm. Shelter in the strongest part of your home away from windows (often the toilet, bathroom or hallway) and use mattresses and blankets for protection if needed.

7. What should I do if the power and/or water go off?

  • Your emergency kit should contain a battery operated radio and spare batteries, so you can stay tuned to your local radio station for updates.
  • The kit should also contain at least 10 litres of drinkable water per person in sealed containers.
  • If a "Boil Water Notice" has been issued, boil tap water for at least one minute.
  • Unplug electrical equipment such as TVs and computers to avoid damage caused by power surges.
  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed so food will stay cool without power for several hours.
  • Switch off power at the switchboard if any wire is short-circuiting or if there is water in the ceiling.
  • If possible, check the Ergon Storm Centre website for regular updates.

8. Where can I get sandbags?

Sandbags and fill can be purchased from most major hardware stores.

Council makes bags, sand and scoops for people to make their own sandbags available at its transfer stations in the lead-up to the storm season. These coincide with the annual free green waste drop-off.

A quick and practical alternative is filling plastic shopping bags with soil from your yard.

9.  What should I do with my rubbish bins?

You should secure bins on your property. General waste and recycling bin collections may be interrupted during an emergency. Council will issue notification of any changes via local ABC and commercial radio stations and its official websites.

Last updated: 24 November 2017