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?

Heavy rain from cyclones can lead to localised flooding. There is also the possibility of storm tide surge inundation.

Residents in low-lying areas that could be impacted by flooding or storm tide surge should arrange to stay with family or friends outside the affected area.

Keep in mind that while your property may not be directly affected, flooding and storm tide surge can mean nearby roads are impassable.

Council may issue an evacuation advice if lives are at risk from storm tide surge. This is based on storm tide surge zones - red, orange and yellow - reflecting the severity of the storm tide surge.

Residents advised to evacuate from storm tide surge areas will be able to shelter at a Public Storm Tide Cyclone Shelter. These shelters are designed to save lives by accommodating as many people as possible, and therefore can be uncomfortable - there are no beds, no cooking facilities and no showers. Evacuees should also provide their own food. Residents are therefore encouraged to shelter with family or friends outside the affected area.

Residents outside the storm tide surge inundation area may be refused entry to a shelter.

If storm tide surge is not a threat, and evacuation hasn't been advised, you should stay at home, make yourself as secure as possible and keep informed via the Cairns Disaster Dashboard, ABC radio, Council's website or the Cairns Disaster Centre Facebook page.

Your home is often the safest place to shelter.

If you feel where you live is not secure, activate your household emergency plan and make your way to your pre-arranged temporary accommodation.

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 to survive at least three days. 

If you have children, take games, toys or books.

Register with the National Registration and Inquiry System (NRIS) or call 1800 727 077.

How will I know a cyclone is coming?

Cyclone advice is issued as a watch or a warning through the Bureau of Meteorology.

A Cyclone Watch is issued 48 hours before a cyclone's predicted landfall. Information is updated every six hours.

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.

Council also provides information about Cyclone Watches and Cyclone Warnings via the Cairns Disaster Dashboard, the Cairns Disaster Centre Facebook page, and this website. Information will also be provided via local ABC and community radio stations.

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 areas many kilometres from the cyclone's centre.

You can stay informed via this website, the Cairns Disaster Dashboard, the Cairns Disaster Centre Facebook page, and ABC Far North and community radio stations.

What should I do if the power or water goes off?

Infrastructure can be significantly affected if a cyclone or major flooding event was to happen. Power outages can also impact the internet and mobile phone service.

Residents should therefore plan to be self-sufficient for at least three days.

Your household emergency kit should include items to assist you if there are electricity or water supply problems.

  • Battery operated radio and spare batteries so you can stay informed
  • Battery powered torch and spare batteries
  • Power banks for mobile phones and other devices
  • 3 litres of drinkable water per person, per day, (extra if you have pets), 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.

Use the Cairns Disaster Dashboard for updates on road closures, Ergon and Telstra outages, and information about water supply.

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.

In the days before a cyclone, sandbags may be available at SES depots or Council's waste transfer stations. Announcements will be made via this website, the Cairns Disaster Dashboard, the Cairns Disaster Centre Facebook page, Council's Facebook page and local media.

What should I do with my rubbish bins?

Rubbish bins can become airborne in strong wind and cause damage to your or neighbour's homes. They should be secured inside your property.

Rubbish bins can also be filled with water to be used for flushing toilets if there is a water outage.

General waste and recycling bin collections may be interrupted during an emergency. Information on changes to rubbish collection will be made via this website,

Announcements will be made via this website, the Cairns Disaster Dashboard, the Cairns Disaster Centre Facebook page, Council's Facebook page and local media.

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Last updated: 16 June 2020