Storm surge

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.

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

Evacuation

In Cairns, evacuation advice is based on the the risk of storm surge, not cyclonic winds, so it's important to know if you are in a storm surge area.

Official evacuation advice will be issued by zones (not specific streets or suburbs) depending on the predicted height of the storm surge.

Red zone: for areas up to 2m above AHD*

Orange zone: for areas between 2m and 3m above AHD

Yellow zone: for areas between 3m and 4.5m above AHD

*Australian Height Datum (AHD) defines ground levels in Australia. The level of 0.0m AHD is approximately sea level.

Evacuation advice will be issued via Cairns Alert, Emergency Alert, this website, the Cairns Disaster Centre Facebook page, Cairns Disaster on Twitter, ABC Far North and community radio stations.

Areas impacted by storm surge may be inaccessible for an extended period of time. If you choose not to evacuate you may be cut off.

Residents who aren't in a storm surge zone but need to travel through storm surge areas should also have a plan in place in case they become isolated.

If advised to evacuate, leave immediately by the most direct route, don't wait. Other people in your area will also be evacuating, meaning roads will be busy, so give yourself plenty of time.

Be prepared by knowing your evacuation route and an alternative evacuation route in case your primary access is damaged or blocked by flooding, fallen trees etc (see maps below). Include this in your household emergency plan.

What zone am I in?

Enter your suburb in the search field below to find out if your property is in a storm surge inundation area. If your area is in a WHITE zone, your property is not in a storm surge evacuation zone.

You can also look for your property on the maps below. Some properties may also have a storm surge zone sticker inside their electricity meter box.

If you ARE in a coloured zone:

  • Your property may be at risk of storm surge flooding during a cyclone.
  • Prepare to evacuate if emergency services issue an evacuation order for your zone.
  • Take the most direct route as shown in the storm tide surge evacuation maps below.

Where will I go?

The best option is always to shelter with family or friends outside the storm surge area.

Residents who have nowhere else to go, can go to a Public Storm Surge Cyclone Shelter. If you have haven't been advised to evacuate, you may be refused entry.

These shelters are designed to save lives by accommodating as many people as possible and are therefore uncomfortable, for instance there are no beds, showers or cooking facilities.

The shelters could be locked down for up to 12 hours.

When evacuating, take your household emergency kit with you so you have necessary supplies.

Evacuation routes

These maps will help you plan your evacuation route if you are advised to, or decide to evacuate ahead of storm surge.

Cairns CBD Barron River to Trinity Inlet

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Overview - Cairns CBD Barron River to Trinity Inlet (1.6 MB)
Machans Beach, Barron, Freshwater, Aeroglen, Edge Hill, Whitfield, Cairns North, Manunda, Manoora, Cairns City, Mooroobool, Bungalow, Portsmith, Woree, White Rock, Mount Sheridan, Bentley Park, Edmonton, East Trinty, Glen Boughton, Wrights Creek, Earlville, Bayview Heights, Redlynch, Brinsmead, Kamerunga, Stratford, Parramatta Park, Kanimbla.

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North Cairns (333.8 KB)
Barron, Freshwater, Aeroglen, Edge Hill, Whitfield, Redlych, Kamerunga, Stratford, Kamerunga.

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Cairns CBD (1.5 MB)
Edge Hill, Whitfield, Cairns North, Manunda, Manoora, Mooroobool, Bungalow, Portsmith, Woree, Cairns City, Earlville, Bayview Heights, White Rock, Parramatta Park, Kanimbla.

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South Cairns (520.0 KB)
Bungalow, Portsmith, Bayview Heights, Woree, Mount Sheridan, White Rock, Bentley Park, Edmonton, Earlville.

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East Trinity (136.8 KB)
Glen Boughton, East Trinity.

Cairns Northern Beaches

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Overview - Machans Beach to Ellis Beach (780.3 KB)
Ellis Beach, Palm Cove, Macalister Range, Clifton Beach, Kewarra Beach, Trinity Beach, Trinity Park, Smithfield, Yorkeys Knob, Holloways Beach, Caravonica, Machans Beach, Barron, Freshwater, Stratford, Aeroglen, Barron Gorge, Kamerunga.

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Machans Beach to Trinity Park (594.0 KB)
Ellis Beach, Palm Cove, Clifton Beach, Macalister Range Kewarra Beach, Trinity Beach, Trinity Park.

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Trinity Beach to Ellis Beach (535.2 KB)
Trinity Beach, Trinity Park, Yorkeys Knob, Smithfield, Holloways Beach, Machans Beach, Caravonica, Barron.

Trinity Inlet to Bramston Beach

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Overview - Trinity Inlet to Bramston Beach (574.8 KB)
Aloomba, Fishery Falls, Deeral, Bellenden Ker, East Russell, Wooroonooran, Babinda, Mirriwinni, Bramston Beach, Eubenangee.

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Deeral to Mirriwinni (267.5 KB)
East Russell, Bellenden Ker, Deeral.

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Bramston Beach (200.7 KB)
Bramston Beach, Eubenangee, East Russell.

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Last updated: 16 June 2020