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Tropical cyclone events

The Top End of the Northern Territory is naturally prone to tropical cyclone events with some two to three cyclones affecting the region between November and April each year.

The cyclone season officially commences on 1 November and ceases on 30 April, but cyclonic events have been known to occur outside this period. Cyclones usually affect coastal areas up to 50km inland from the sea, so whether you live in the city or the rural area, learning to protect yourself, your family and your property from cyclones can assist in minimising the potential losses and trauma that you might suffer.

How do I prepare for the cyclone season?

Now is the time to act, before a cyclone is on the doorstep and you’ve been left without enough time to prepare yourself, your family or your home. Check to see if your own home is safe in a cyclone and download our fact sheet.

Once you have decided to shelter at home, there are some preparations you and your family can make:

  • Trim tree tops and branches well clear of your home (get council permission).
  • Clear your property of loose material that could blow about and possibly cause injury or damage during extreme winds.
  • In the case of a storm surge/tidal warning, or other flooding, know your nearest safe high ground and the safest access route to it.
  • Prepare an emergency kit that can sustain every member of the household for at least 72 hours.

Community safety within the Northern Territory environment is everyone’s responsibility and can only be achieved through a partnership between the NT Government and the community. To reduce the risks posed by emergencies and disasters, the Northern Territory Government provides a general level of community safety in a number of ways, including the provision of Emergency Services, emergency planning coordinated by the Emergency Management Council, infrastructure such as hospitals and emergency shelters and land use planning.

Your role in that partnership is to ensure the protection of your family, your home and your possessions.

Once you have established which disasters or emergency situations could affect you, the next thing you should do is sit down with your family and discuss what you will do in an emergency or disaster.

Learn more from our household emergency planning page - including information about emergency kits, pet care and shelters in the NT.

What do I do during a cyclone?

Heed warnings and follow advice given by Emergency Service personnel.

Cyclone emergency plans

Cyclones are likely to affect essential services and possibly disrupt your ability to travel and communicate with each other. Ensure your household emergency plan is ready. 

You should:

  • Check that your house is built to code and well maintained so that you can decide well beforehand where you intend to shelter, at home if it is safe or with friends or relatives in a secure area. Shelter in a public emergency shelter if these options are not available to you. 
  • If you cannot shelter at home, decide the route you will take and how you will get to your chosen shelter. 
  • Secure or clear loose materials around your property, these could become dangerous and damaging missiles in high winds. 
  • Trim back trees and branches around your house so that they are well clear and cannot damage your property during cyclones or storms. 
  • Ensure your emergency/evacuation kit is complete and ready for use. 
  • Know if your property will be affected by storm surge or flooding and identify your nearest safe high ground and your safest route to it. 
  • Include arrangements for the welfare of your pets and animals in your emergency plans. 
  • If you have your own transport, remember to have it fully fuelled and ready for use. 
  • When the threat of a cyclone is imminent, listen to all media outlets for information and updates and continue listening as the cyclone develops or passes. 
  • In addition to all the normal cyclone preparations you should make, consider house security and advising relatives or neighbours of your intentions and plans. 

For further information and advice on preparing your family and property for cyclone events contact the NTES Public Education Officer on 8946 4168 or visit your nearest police station. 

Tropical cyclone watch and warning messages

When there is a cyclone threat, warning messages are issued to the public via radio and television. A cyclone watch indicates the areas and communities that may experience gales or stronger winds in one to two days time.

Once 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 your vehicles' fuel tanks. Fill Jerry cans with fuel if you have any. 
  • Check your emergency kit and fill any water containers you may have (you should have at least 3 litres of water per person per day for at least 72 hours). 
  • Ensure household members know what the strongest part of the house is and what to do in the event of a cyclone warning or an evacuation. 
  • Tune in to your local radio and/or television stations for further information and warnings. 
  • Check neighbours are aware of the situation and are preparing. 

Once a cyclone warning is issued

  • A cyclone warning indicates the areas and communities that may experience gales or stronger winds within 24 hours.
  • Listen for the announcement that schools will close and be prepared to collect your children. 
  • Park vehicles under solid shelter (with the handbrake on and in gear). 
  • Put wooden or plastic outdoor furniture in your pool or inside with other loose items. 
  • Close shutters and board or block all windows. 
  • Draw curtains and shut doors. 
  • In case you may need to evacuate, pack an evacuation kit of warm clothes, essential medications, baby formula, nappies etc, valuables, important papers, photos, mementoes 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/television for further information. 

These warning messages include an estimate of the severity of the cyclone by the use of a category number and the storm surge threat. These cyclone messages allow the public to take appropriate precautions before the onset of gale force winds.

On warning of local evacuation (to storm surge and flood prone areas)*

  • Lock your house; switch off electricity, gas, water, etc. Take your evacuation kit. 
  • Wear strong footwear (not thongs) and warm clothing for protection against cuts from debris. 
  • Heed warnings and follow advice given by Emergency Service personnel. 

*Based on predicted wind strengths and storm tide height, it may be necessary to evacuate areas to avoid casualties. Be ready to move to high ground or shelters as directed by Police or Emergency Service personnel. High winds & flooded roads will be hazards during movement. Advice will be given on local TV and radio. Learn more about storm surges and floods.

When the cyclone is imminent
  • Heed all warnings and follow advice given by Emergency Service personnel. 
  • Go directly to your shelter. Public shelters will be open at this stage. 
When the cyclone strikes
  • Stay inside and shelter well clear of windows in strongest part of house - cellar, bathroom, internal toilet or passageway. 
  • Disconnect all electrical appliances. 
  • Listen to your portable radio for cyclone updates. 
  • If house starts to break up, protect yourself with mattress, rugs, blankets or tarpaulin. Anchor yourself to a strong fixture (such as water pipes) or get under a strong table or bed. 
  • Beware the calm 'eye'. Don't assume the cyclone is over - if a calm period is due to the 'eye', violent winds will soon resume from the opposite direction. 
  • If driving, stop - clear of trees, power lines and streams. 
After the cyclone
  • Listen to local radio for official warnings and advice. 
  • Don't go outside until advised officially that it is safe. If you need to go outside, be careful of fallen power lines and trees, broken sewerage and water lines, loose roof sheeting and other material. 
  • If you had to evacuate, don't go home until advised. Use route recommended and stay calm. 
  • Don't make unnecessary telephone calls. 
  • Beware of fallen power lines, damaged buildings and trees, and flooded water courses. 
  • Don't ignore warnings and don't go sightseeing. 

Note: Managers of resorts, hotels, motels and caravan parks should take steps to ensure visitors are familiar with the dangers and know what to do in the event of a cyclone.