In Queensland we enjoy a wonderful climate and lifestyle which is the envy of many people worldwide.
Cyclones are an inevitable part of life in Queensland and history has shown that we cannot afford to become complacent about the dangers that they present.
It is vital that people living in areas prone to cyclones take action now to prepare their homes and their families so that damage can be minimised.
A few hours spent making your home secure, putting aside supplies and discussing an evacuation plan with your family could mean the difference between life and death.
Cyclones are destructive and inevitable
Every year between November and April, the coastal regions of Queensland are at risk of being hit by cyclones.
A cyclone is a violent storm characterized by high winds rotating around a calm centre that can produce winds in excess of 200 km/h. These strong winds can cause extensive damage to property and turn debris into dangerous missiles.
Being prepared is your responsibility
Preparing your family and your home for a cyclone is your responsibility.
Every person who lives in the cyclone-prone areas of Queensland must recognise this and make it a priority between the months of November and April.
While local, state and federal governments can spend millions of dollars every year on disaster mitigation, response and recovery, these efforts can be worthless if families do not take the proper precautions themselves.
After a Cyclone has Passed
It can be a very distressing time after a cyclone once you and your family start to assess the situation. Check on Family, Friends and Neighbours to ensure they too are safe. It is important to follow the next steps immediately after a Cyclone:
- Don’t go outside until officially advised it is safe.
- Check for gas leaks. Don’t use electric appliances if wet.
- Listen to local radio for official warnings and advice.
- If you have to evacuate, or did so earlier, don’t return until advised. Use a recommended route and don’t rush.
- Beware of damaged power lines, bridges, buildings, trees, and don’t enter floodwaters.
- Heed all warnings and don’t go sightseeing. Check/help neighbours instead.
- Don’t make unnecessary telephone calls.
Before a Cyclone Strikes
Being prepared before a cyclone comes is the best way to keep your family and pets safe.
- Check with the Burdekin Shire Council to see if your home has been built to cyclone standards.
- Check that the walls, roof and eaves of your home are secure.
- Trim treetops and branches well clear of your home (get Council permission).
- Preferably fit shutters, or at least metal screens, to all glass areas.
- Clear your property of loose material that could blow about and possibly cause injury or damage during extreme winds.
- In case of a storm surge/tide warning, or other flooding, know your nearest safe high ground and the safest access route to it.
- Check neighbours, especially recent arrivals, to make sure they are prepared.
- Prepare an Emergency Kit
Prepare the following items and keep them in a sturdy, easily transported bag or box.
- Battery operated radio (with spare batteries)
- Torch (with spare batteries)
- Candles, lighter and water proof matches
- First aid kit and manual
- Combination pocket knife
- Portable (gas) stove with fuel
- Cooking gear
- Water in sealed containers (10L per person)
- Medications additional supplies
- Toiletry and sanitary supplies
- Change of clothes and strong shoes
- Nonperishable food (cans) – enough for 3 to 4 days (can opener and utensils)
- Special needs items for infants, the aged and people with disabilities
- Pet food, water and other animal needs
- Tent or tarpaulin, and blankets
- Other camping equipment
- Cash money (ATMs may not be available)
- Personal documents (insurance certificates, photographs etc)
- Strong plastic bags (for clothing and valuables etc)
- Emergency phone numbers
Visit the Get Ready Queensland site for your emergency kit check list.
Cyclone Warnings, Watches and Evacuations
Australia has a good system for detecting and reporting on Cyclone activity. A Cyclone Watch is issued if there is a risk of Cyclone. A Cyclone Warning is issued when it is time to complete your preparations. A Local Evacuation may be issued if necessary.
When a Cyclone Watch is Issued
- Re-check your property for any loose material and tie down (or fill with water) all large, relatively light items such as boats and rubbish bins.
- Fill vehicles’ fuel tanks. Check your emergency kit and fill water containers.
- Ensure household members know which is the strongest part of the house and what to do in the event of a cyclone warning or an evacuation.
- Turn to your local radio/TV for further information and warnings.
- Check that neighbours are aware of the situation and are preparing.
When a Cyclone Warning is Issued
- Collect children from school or childcare centre and go home.
- Park vehicles under solid shelter (hand brake on and in gear).
- Put wooden or plastic outdoor furniture in your pool or inside with other loose items.
- Close shutters or board-up or heavily tape windows. Draw curtains and lock doors.
- Pack an evacuation kit of warm clothes, essential medications, baby formula, nappies, valuables, important papers, photos and mementos in waterproof bags to be taken with your emergency kit. Large/heavy valuables could be protected in a strong cupboard.
- Remain indoors (with your pets). Stay tuned to your local radio/TV for further information.
On Warning of Local Evacuation
- Based on predicted wind speeds and storm surge heights, evacuation may be necessary. Official advice will be given on local radio/TV regarding safe routes and when to move.
- Wear strong shoes (not thongs) and tough clothing for protection.
- Lock doors; turn off power, gas, and water; take your evacuation and emergency kits.
- If evacuating inland (out of town), take pets and leave early to avoid heavy traffic, flooding and wind hazards.
- If evacuating to a public shelter or higher location, follow police and State Emergency Services directions.
- If going to a public shelter, take bedding needs and books or games for children.
- Leave pets protected and with food and water.
If your boat is on a trailer
- Remove the outboard, safety equipment, radios, sounders, bimini covers and any other items that are valuable or may be blown away or damaged by the wind.
- Remove it from the trailer, placing it on the ground facing the direction the wind will come from, and lash it with 24mm rope or chains to ground anchors or the most secure object available. Place the boat away from trees or objects that may fall on them.
- Half fill the boat with water, except for stern drive or inboard motored boats.
- If you cannot remove the boat from the trailer, turn the boat to face the wind, let the air partially out of the tyres and place wooden blocks between the frame member and the axle inside each wheel. Lash it with 24mm rope or chains to ground anchors or the most secure object available. Place the boat away from trees or objects that may fall on them.
- Filling a boat on a trailer with water may break your trailer springs and axles wedges should be forced into the springs to distribute the additional weight on the axle.
If your boat is in the water
- Contact your local Coastguard, Volunteer Marine Rescue Unit, Marine Watch or Harbourmaster to find out where the designated safe anchorages are in your area and any cyclone plans that may be in place.
- Know your marina’s cyclone plan – particularly if they require you to remove your vessel.
- Ensure that your boat can reach the safe anchorage remembering that tides may be higher then normal – make a trial run at the beginning of the cyclone season.
- Double all ties.
- Make ties high on pilings to allow for rising waters.
- Cover all tie lines at contact points with rubber or other materials to prevent chafing.
- Install fenders to protect the boat from rubbing against the dock or mooring.
- Be sure batteries are sufficient to run bilge pumps throughout the storm.
- Put duct tape on windows and hatches.
- Insert plugs in engine ports.
- Strip bimini tops, sails or any other object that could blow away.
- Disconnect shore power.
- Close fuel valves and cockpit seacocks.
Public Cyclone Shelter/Place of Refuge
The Burdekin Shire Cyclone Shelter/Place of Refuge was officially opened on Saturday November 29th 2014 and is located at the Ayr Show Grounds. The facility has been built to withstand winds associated with a category 5 cyclone.
The best option for most people during a tropical cyclone is to shelter in their homes (shelter in place). However, if your home is located in an evacuation zone or is an older building that is not in good condition or you have special needs, you need to plan and prepare now so you can evacuate and seek shelter in a safer place.
The Public Cyclone Shelter/Place of Refuge must be considered as the last option for residents that live in an evacuation zone, have exhausted all other shelter options and are unable to leave the warning area. This facility is intended as a short term shelter option (up to 18 hours) and has very basic amenities.
You and your family will be much more comfortable sheltering at home, or at a family members’ or friends’ home located in an area outside local evacuation zones or in commercial accommodation located outside the warning area.
Residents in evacuation zones with no other sheltering option will be advised when the Public Cyclone Shelter/Place of Refuge is activated, via ABC local radio (broadcast on AM630) and on councils’ website.
Limitations of the Shelter:
The facility has limited capacity and will be used to accommodate as many people as possible. This means that there will be limited space and you will need to be aware of the following:
- You will need to be seated in a chair and will not be able to lie or sit on a mattress or stretcher;
- Domestic pets and other animals will not be allowed in the shelter and you will need to make other arrangements for sheltering your pets prior to the cyclone season. Note: assistance animals are permitted to enter the shelter and stay with owners;
- All personal belongings are to be kept within a backpack or small bag able to fit under a chair. You will need to be self sufficient and support yourself and your family for the duration of the shelter period, so you need to include personal medications, essential non-perishable food and refreshments, identification papers and essential personal items. Anything deemed oversized and / or unnecessary will not be permitted into the shelter;
- There are no public cooking facilities, limited bathroom facilities, and limited medical support provided;
- There will be limited transport and parking options; and
- When using the public cyclone shelter, you may be in the facility for up to 18 hours or more. During this times the building will be “locked down” for a period when the cyclone is passing. To ensure the structural integrity of the building and the safety of occupants there will be NO ability to enter OR leave the shelter while it is in “lock down”.
Prior to each cyclone season, residents and visitors should consider their level of risk regarding cyclones and their associated hazards and take precautionary measures to prepare themselves for sheltering and/or evacuating from their homes if necessary.
For further information please contact Council’s Customer Service 4783 9800.
Tropical Cyclones are low pressure systems in the tropics that, in the Southern Hemisphere, have well-defined clockwise wind circulations with a region surrounding the centre with gale force winds (sustained winds of 63 km/h or greater with gusts in excess of 90 km/h). The gale force winds can extend hundreds of kilometres from the cyclone centre. If the sustained winds around the centre reach 119 km/h (gusts in excess of 170 km/h), then the system is called a severe tropical cyclone. These are referred to as hurricanes or typhoons in other countries.
The circular eye or centre of a tropical cyclone is an area characterised by light winds and often by clear skies. Eye diameters are typically 40km but can range from under 10km to over 100km. They eye is surrounded by a dense ring of cloud about 16km high known as the eye wall which marks the belt of strongest winds and heaviest rainfall.
Tropical cyclones derive their energy from the warm tropical oceans and do not form unless the sea-surface temperature is above 26.5°C, although, once formed, they can persist over lower sea-surface temperatures. Tropical cyclones can persist for many days and may follow quite erratic paths. They usually dissipate over land or colder oceans.
Most of the northern coastline of Australia is covered by the Bureau of Meteorology’s weather watch radar network. Real time images and information about the weather watch radar can be found at www.bom.gov.au.
Tropical Cyclone Outlook
Outlook statements are issued daily by each Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre. These present 3-day outlooks on possible tropical cyclone development in the region and surrounding oceans.
Tropical Cyclone Information Bulletins
Bulletins are issued every six hours if a tropical cyclone exists within the Australian region, but is not expected to threaten any coastal or island communities within the next 48 hours. Bulletins include the cyclone’s name, current location and its forecast movement.
Tropical Cyclone Watch
A watch is issued every six hours when there are indications that gales or stronger winds are expected to affect coastal or island communities within 48 hours but not within 24 hours. It details the communities expected to be affected and gives a brief estimate of the cyclone’s location, intensity, severity category and movement.
Tropical Cyclone Warning
A warning is issued every three hours when there are indications that gales or stronger winds are expected to affect coastal or island communities within 24 hours. As well as information provided in a watch advice, warning advices also inform of expected maximum wind gusts. Forecasts of heavy rainfall, flooding and abnormally high tide are including where necessary. Communities under threat are also advised to take precautions necessary to safeguard their lives and property. When a cyclone is under radar surveillance close to the coast, hourly advices may be issued.
The general name given to Tropical Cyclone Watch or Warning messages is an Advice or Tropical Cyclone Advice. A tropical cyclone advice is prefixed “FLASH” when it is the first warning to a community not previously alerted by a cyclone watch. It is also issued when major changes are made to the previous warning due, for example, to unexpected movement towards the coast or rapid intensification.
Standard Emergency Warning Signal
The Standard Emergency Warning Signal is an audible signal that is sounded to broadcast media in an emergency situation to gain public attention. This would typically occur in an area where a tropical cyclone of category 2 or stronger is expected to affect a community within 12 hours.
Tropical Cyclone Track and Threat Maps
Track maps are designed to visually complement information contained in watch and warning advices. They show the past track of the cyclone, with distinctive colours or shades to depict watch and warning zones. These maps can be found at www.bom.gov.au.
When a Cyclone Strikes
When a cyclone strikes disconnect electrical appliances, stay indoors, beware of the calm eye as per the following recommendations.
- Disconnect all electrical appliances. Listen to your battery radio for updates.Stay inside and shelter (well clear of windows) in the strongest part of the building, ie cellar, internal hallway or bathroom.
- Keep evacuation and emergency kits with you.
- If the building starts to break up, protect yourself with mattresses, rugs or blankets under a strong table or bench or hold onto a solid fixture, eg a water pipe.
- Beware the calm “eye”. If the wind drops, don’t assume the cyclone is over, violent winds will soon resume from another direction. Wait for the official “all clear”.
- If driving, stop (handbrake on and in gear) – but well away from the sea and clear of trees, power lines and streams. Stay in the vehicle.