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Preparing for extreme weather

Queensland is often affected by severe weather over the months of November to April. Extreme weather events that occur in Queensland include tropical cyclones, severe storms and flooding.


People in central and northern Queensland are not strangers to the destruction and danger caused by tropical cyclones. Cyclones typically strike between November and April each year. Boaties need to be prepared to protect themselves and their boats from the damage cyclones can cause.

Cyclones vary in severity from category 1 (least severe) to category 5 (most destructive).

Signs of an approaching cyclone may include:

  • an unsteady or rapidly falling barometer
  • significant cloud formations or a lurid or wild sky
  • extremely heavy swell
  • high humidity.

Storm surge

A storm surge is an offshore rise of water associated with a low pressure weather system, typically a tropical cyclone caused by high winds pushing the ocean's surface. The wind causes the water to pile up higher than the ordinary sea level.

It is this combined effect of low pressure and persistent wind over a shallow water body which is the most common cause of storm surge flooding problems.

Changes in sea level generated by extreme meteorological events such as winter storms and cyclones may be positive or negative depending on whether the sea level is higher or lower than predicted. The effects of a storm surge are most severe when it occurs in conjunction with high tide and when this happens, the storm tide can reach areas that might otherwise have been safe.

The combined effects of the storm tide and waves can knock down buildings, wash away roads, run ships aground and loosen buoy moorings.

As with a cyclone you need to plan well ahead in the event of a storm surge. When a cyclone threat develops, keep listening to official warnings issued by the Bureau of Meteorology. These will advise if high tides and coastal flooding are expected. The regional harbour master will direct any shipping movements.

Contingency plans

There are extreme weather contingency plans in place to help you prepare for severe weather.

Cairns region

Townsville region


Mackay region


Gladstone region

Brisbane region


Gold Coast region

Gold Coast

What do I need to do?

  • Be familiar with the cyclone contingency plan for the relevant area.
  • Take the time to travel the suggested shelter area or inlet before cyclone season starts.
  • Ensure your contact details are updated with the authorities.
  • Organise options to allow movement of your vessel if you will be away during cyclone season.
  • Know when and where your vessel needs to be during an evacuation.
  • Keep a record of emergency telephone numbers handy – for example regional harbour master, volunteer marine rescue organisations, Queensland Police Service.
  • Have plenty of line to secure your vessel.
  • Secure loose articles below deck and secure all hatches.
  • Make sure you comply with all directions issued by the regional harbour master or others as delegated.
  • Do not leave your cyclone mooring until the regional harbour master has given the all clear.

What if I am away when an extreme weather event occurs?

If you are going away over the months of November to April, there is a chance that an extreme weather event will happen while you are away. Make sure to take the following action before you leave:

  • Where services are available, lodge a completed authorisation to move vessel form and provide a key to access your vessel to be used in the event of a harbour evacuation. These services are provided by volunteer marine rescue organisations – check the extreme weather contingency plan for details.
  • Leave a key and contact details with a responsible person and provide a comprehensive explanation of when and where the vessel needs to be moved in the event of a warning being issued.

Further information is available from your closest Maritime Safety Queensland regional office.

Last updated
21 October 2014