Severe Tropical Cyclone
Severe Tropical Cyclone Monica
30 year average cyclone occurrence and direction maps
Darwin Cyclone history
24-25 November 1839
A severe cyclone wrecked the early British
settlement at Port Essington on the Cobourg Peninsula. Most of the buildings
were demolished or badly damaged. The Royal Navy sloop Pelorus was driven
ashore and half buried in the mud. The barometer fell to 965 hpa as the
cyclone centre arrived and a storm surge to about 3 metres above the high
water mark occurred.
6-7 Jan 1897 - "The Great Hurricane"
Late on 6 January a severe cyclone struck the township
of Palmerston (Darwin) reducing most of the buildings to ruins. The pearling
fleet in the harbour was decimated and altogether 28 lives were lost. A lowest
pressure of 960 hpa was recorded at Charles Point while 296 mm of rain fell on
the town overnight. Destruction of the forest occurred over a huge area west and
south of the township.
25-26 Feb 1915
On 25 February a severe cyclone passed west over Croker
Island, Cobourg Peninsula, and then the Tiwi Islands early on the following day.
Several fishing vessels were sunk and at least six people drowned. Severe damage
was caused on the Tiwi Islands with 250 mm of rain in eight hours recorded at
3-11 Mar 1919
A cyclone formed in the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf near
Wyndham where 440 mm of rain fell in 40 hours. The cyclone intensified as it
moved northwards passing just west of Charles Point late on 5 March. Moderate
damage was caused to the Lightkeeper's buildings and also in Darwin harbour
where two vessels were sunk. The full force of the cyclone was felt at Bathurst
Island Mission which was destroyed by hurricane force winds and a five metre
storm surge. Thousands of trees were uprooted at Cape Don as the cyclone swung
eastwards along the north coast and weakened, only to reintensify several days
later in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
29-31 Mar 1923 -"Douglas Mawson Cyclone"
After causing havoc in the Torres Strait Islands a
severe cyclone looped across Cape York Peninsula into the eastern Gulf of
Carpentaria. It was here that the coastal steamer Douglas Mawson with 20 people
on board disappeared without trace. The cyclone continued southeast across the
gulf and struck the Emerald River Mission on Groote Eylandt with great fury on
Easter Saturday (31 March). Hurricane force winds accompanied by a 6.7 metre
storm surge lasted throughout the night, completely destroying the mission house
and stripping bare the surrounding forest. Discovery of wreckage from the
ill-fated Douglas Mawson one year later triggered rumours of survivors being
held captive by Arnhem land Aborigines. These rumours persisted for many years
but were never substantiated.
8-11 Mar 1937
A severe cyclone moved into Darwin from the northwest
causing severe damage throughout the town and the death of one resident. Huge
seas ran in the harbour with waves breaking over the cliffs on the foreshore.
Winds gusted to 158 km/h.
4-8 Jan 1940
This cyclone was notable not so much for its intensity,
but for the huge flood that it produced over the Top End, especially in the
Roper Valley. During the first few days of January a deep monsoon depression
formed over Eastern Arnhem land. Over the next week the system continued to
intensify, transforming its character into a tropical cyclone as it drifted
eastwards into the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Roper River rose 25 metres, sweeping
away the Roper Mission and badly damaging the police station. Severe flooding
occurred over a vast area of the Top End.
29 Nov-3 Dec 1948
A severe cyclone produced heavy damage on the Tiwi
Islands and moderate damage in Darwin. The pearling lugger La Grange was wrecked
off Melville Island with the loss of the entire crew of ten. Winds over the Tiwi
Islands were estimated at 160 km/h.
5-6 Mar 1973 - Cyclone Madge
Severe building and tree damage were caused on Groote
Eylandt and at Numbulwar with the passage of Cyclone Madge. Wind gusts to 180
km/h were estimated at Angurugu where 421 mm of rain fell in 14 hours. A jetty
was washed away and a barge sunk.
21-25 Dec 1974 -
20-23 Mar 1984 - Cyclone Kathy
Cyclone Kathy formed in the Coral Sea and moved
westward across Cape York Peninsula, entering the Gulf of Carpentaria on 20
March. The cyclone intensified rapidly as it swung southeast towards the Pellew
Islands. A prawn trawling fleet of 20 vessels was caught in the cyclone eye as
it passed through the Pellew Islands during the night of 22 March. One vessel
was sunk and two others stranded on rocks. One crewman was drowned. Complete
devastation of the forest occurred over most of the island group and several
holiday camps were flattened. At Centre Island weather station the pressure fell
to 940 hpa and wind gusts to 232 km/h were recorded before the recorder mast
blew down. A storm surge of 4.2 metres occurred on Vanderlin Island and hurled
large numbers of green turtles and dugongs onto the mainland salt flats. Tree
damage extended inland through Borroloola for more than 200 kilometres. Moderate
damage was caused in Borroloola township.
19-25 March 1985 - Cyclone Sandy
After forming in the central Gulf of Carpentaria
Cyclone Sandy moved south and then west over Bing Bong Station and Port Roper.
Two fishing trawlers were beached on North Island, Bing Bong homestead was
wrecked, and extensive damage was caused to vegetation and seagrass beds along
the southwest Gulf coast. Surges up to three metres were experienced, with
turtles and pilot whales being swept ashore. Centre Island weather station
recorded a minimum pressure of 973 hpa and a maximum wind gust of 220 km/h.
(Source: Bureau of Meteorology)
Tropical Cyclones Affecting Darwin
Over the years many tropical cyclones have passed close
to Darwin bringing heavy rain and on occasions strong wind, but little recorded
damage. The following list includes only those cyclones which had a significant
impact on the population centre.
Jan 1882 Strong
gales hit Darwin with severe damage to many buildings.
Jan 1897 Remembered
as the Great Hurricane. Violent winds with torrential rain flattened the
township and decimated the pearling fleet. At least 28 lives were lost and
natural vegetation destroyed over a wide area.
Dec 1915 Severe
damage in Darwin harbour with three vessels sunk and two others badly damaged.
Widespread destruction of trees around Charles Point.
Apr 1917 Moderate
damage caused to buildings in Darwin. Many trees destroyed north of the town.
Sampan sunk near Port Blaze with three lives lost.
Mar 1919 Two
sailing vessels sunk in Darwin harbour along with several smaller boats.
Building damage at Charles Point lighthouse. Hurricane winds and severe storm
surge destroyed the Bathurst Island Mission, where a baby was drowned.
Mar 1937 Darwin
township was severely damaged by hurricane force winds. Huge seas ran in the
harbour, and several boats were stranded. Widespread destruction of the
Dec 1948 Severe
gales caused moderate damage in Darwin. Damage was more severe on the Tiwi
Islands. A fishing vessel was wrecked near Melville Island and the crew of 10
Dec 1974 Cyclone
Tracy. City of Darwin devastated, with 65 people killed and majority of 45,000
population left homeless. At least 90% of homes either demolished or badly
damaged. Natural vegetation around Darwin laid bare.
Mar 1981 Cyclone
Max. Gales in Darwin with considerable garden damage but only superficial
building damage. Cyclone Max is notable for the fact that it was the first
cyclone to pass through Darwin following Cyclone Tracy, and the response of the
local people to the warnings was remarkable
Information Courtesy B.O.M and The NT Library