Cyclones are a part of life for people living in Queensland’s coastal areas.

In Queensland, communities within 50 kilometres of the coastline heading north from Bundaberg are most susceptible to cyclones, however accompanying wind and rain from weakening cyclones can affect communities throughout all parts of Queensland.

What is a cyclone, a storm surge and a storm tide?

The Bureau of Meteorology provides the following explanations to explain how cyclones, storm surges and storm tides work hand in hand to create at times catastrophic conditions.

Tropical Cyclone Ingrid in the Coral Sea
Cyclones are powerful weather systems that can cause significant damage to the built and natural environments. They develop from low pressure systems that develop over warm oceans in the tropics, and generally intensify over several days, generating severe winds, strong rain and flooding. Cyclones produce very strong and potentially destructive winds that rotate clockwise around a calm centre (the ‘eye’).
Storm Surge
Storm surge
A storm surge is a rise above the normal water level along a shore resulting from strong onshore winds and / or reduced atmospheric pressure. Storm surges accompany a tropical cyclone as it comes ashore. They may also be formed by intense low-pressure systems in non-tropical areas.
Storm Tide
Storm tide
A storm tide is the combination of storm surge and normal (astronomical) tide is known as a storm tide. The worst impacts occur when the storm surge arrives on top of a high tide. When this happens, the storm tide can reach areas that might otherwise have been safe.
Illustration explaining storm tide event

Understand your risk

Queensland homes within 50 kilometres of the coastline north from Bundaberg need to be strong enough to withstand cyclonic winds. 

Wind loading regions
SWHA-SEQ Project - Cyclone Risk in Queensland

Data from: Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience

In addition, homes located within 100 to 200 metres of an open shoreline are at risk of impacts from breaking waves caused by storm tide.

To understand your storm tide risk, you can request a Coastal Hazard Property Map which shows the estimated storm tide levels for your particular property. You can also talk to a coastal engineer who can confirm whether your property is likely to be impacted by waves during a storm tide. 

Damage and impact

As a cyclone approaches, the wind and rain gradually increases over several hours. Winds caused by cyclones are powerful enough to break large trees, roll over sea containers, and blow away unsecured caravans, garden sheds and poorly constructed roofed patios. Strong winds associated with cyclones can cause extensive property damage and turn loose items into wind-borne debris that cause further building damage. Slow moving cyclones can take many hours to move past a particular location, causing extreme wind and rain that can last up to 12 hours.

House severely damaged by cyclone
Uprooted tree on house
Cyclone damaged house

Understanding tropical cyclone categories

The severity of cyclones are expressed as categories one to five. The Bureau of Meteorology explains below.

Watch Understanding tropical cyclone categories on YouTube.
Understanding tropical cyclone categories


Category wind gusts (km/h) and typical impact

CategoryStrongest GustTypical effects
1 - Tropical Cyclone

Less than 125 km/h


Minimal house damage. Damage to some crops, trees and caravans. Boats may drag moorings.
2 - Tropical Cyclone

126-164 km/h

Destructive winds

Minor house damage. Significant damage to signs, trees and caravans. Heavy damage to some crops. Risk of power failure. Small boats may break moorings.
3 - Severe Tropical Cyclone

165-224 km/h

Very destructive winds

Some roof and structural damage. Some caravans destroyed. Power failure likely.
4 - Severe Tropical Cyclone

225-279 km/h

Very destructive winds

Significant roofing and structural damage. Many caravans destroyed and blown away. Dangerous airborne debris. Widespread power failures.
5 - Severe Tropical Cyclone

More than 280 km/h

Extremely destructive winds

Extremely dangerous with widespread destruction.


Steps to reduce the impact of cyclones and storm surges

If you live in a cyclone prone area, the following steps will help you reduce your risk.

Man on ladder cleaning gutters
Complete the home maintenance checklist for natural disasters.
Tape measure and plans
Look at making enhancements to your home that will reduce the impact of cyclones.
Young boy looking at flooded house
Complete the home preparation checklist for severe storms.
Cyclone Debbie satellite image
Bookmark alerts and warnings services to stay informed of cyclone activity in your area.
Close up of family checking emergency plan
Make a household emergency and evacuation plan.
Family and JT packing emergency kit
Pack your household emergency and evacuation kits.
Johnathan Thurston
Check that you have adequate home and contents insurance in the event of a cyclone.
Man hitching boat to ute at boat ramp
Put a plan in place to protect your car, caravan and/ or boat during a cyclone.

Find out more and Get Ready

Check out these other pages and resources to help you Get Ready.