Preparing for the Storm Season in Australia

Which Australian city is the least windy?

I’ll get to that shortly.

In this month’s edition of our free magazine/large leaflet “Living in Brisbane” (delivered to our door) we are again being advised to prepare for this year’s storm season.

storm seasonThe storm season generally runs from around October through to May each year, and here in Queensland we are always being urged to prepare for it at around this time of year.

Advice includes:

  • Trimming tree branches, clearing gutters and drain pipes
  • Clearing your yard of loose objects
  • Registering for the Early Warning Alert Service

Preparing an emergency kit including:

  • A battery-powered radio
  • A torch and spare batteries
  • A first aid kit
  • A mobile phone with charger and car charger
  • Emergency contact numbers
  • Waterproof bags
  • Important documents such as insurance (hmm… “I’m sorry sir, you really should have taken the time to secure your insurance documents before the storm struck, without them we can’t possibly pay you out for all the damage caused.” They wouldn’t, would they??)
  • Canned food and bottled water

That’s just two sections out of the six on this full-page advisory sheet which you can cut out and stick on your fridge. Other advice includes understanding your flood risk, preparing for when severe weather approaches, what to do during severe storms (or more to the point, what not to do) and how to prepare for bushfires.

The final advice is “Don’t wait until it’s too late.

You can find out more information via a link on my previous post about this subject, I wrote about it before when I got a Letter from the Premier. There’s also more information from Brisbane City Council on their be prepared page.

Is it just Queensland?

Obviously not, but it did get me wondering if there was anywhere in Australia where you can completely avoid these severe weather storms?

Let’s take a look.

In financial circles they tend to say “previous performance is no guarantee of future results” and in nature they say “lightning never strikes twice in the same place”. For this exercise though, I am going to assume that if an area has had a severe storm before, it can have another one again.

Let’s take a look around the country for a quick history of severe storms and cyclones. I’ll start with my place…

Queensland

sinking car in BrisbaneCyclones Yasi, Mackay, Ada, Innisfail, Winifred, Mahina, Larry, Ingrid and Althea were all quite severe and smashed into the North East Queensland coast somewhere between Cooktown, Cairns and Mackay. That’s just to mention a few. Brisbane has suffered severe storms and flooding in the past as well, although as far as I’m aware no cyclone has hit this city, but we have had tornado like winds.

Yesterday the Gold Coast had a severe electrical storm with icy hail shaped like three-dimensional stars, so it’s fair to say that Queensland is not the place to escape the storms. The north-east coast of Queensland (and Australia) may just be the place that suffers the worst.

Western Australia

floodCyclones Joan, Alby, Orson, Bobby and George were also very severe and all impacted the north western coast of Australia around Port Headland, Karratha and Exmouth. Alby tracked almost the entire western coast before passing the south-west corner below Perth, killing five and causing $39 million worth of damage along the way.

Western Australia then is not a safe haven from storms.

Northern Territory

Darwin salt croc

Cyclone Tracy destroyed 80% of Darwin in 1974 and is probably the capital of Australia when it comes to electrical storms.

Together with all the earlier mentioned cyclones, these probably represent the worst storms to hit Australia in the last 100 years or so.

All three of these states will, for sure, all be preparing the storm season right now.

As we move further south though, and as sea temperatures drop below the magical 25.6°C (I think) required to form a tropical cyclone, we find a different kind of wind.

New South Wales

Sydney

Severe thunderstorms struck the northern suburbs of Sydney in January 1991 causing damage to over 7,000 houses; cost around $215 million. Other damaging storms struck Sydney in April 1999, and the nearby Hunter Region suffered over $200 million worth of damage and three lives were lost during a storm in 2005.

Worse came in 2007 when a series of storms caused death and destruction in the Hunter Region, Central Coast, Sydney and Lismore….. twice.

Victoria

Shepparton - Painted Cows

Melbourne has suffered severe storms and flash flooding on many occasions, but seems to have escaped the kind of cyclonic damage and deaths caused elsewhere. Trees were uprooted and houses damaged in Shepparton in March 2010 and a tornado flipped cars in Fiskville a year later.

So, Victoria not as bad as the other states, but not wind free either.

Australian Capital Territory

canberra-parliament-houseBeing so far inland, I was confident this would be our safe haven. But apparently back in January 1971, a severe storm caused $9 million worth of damage, a lot of money at the time, and cars were swept away in rushing waters. Seven people were killed.

So, even Canberra is not exempt from storms.

Tasmania

Russell Falls TasmaniaGale force winds, heavy rain, hail or snow, and thunder and lightning completed the severe weather picture this week.” – That was the news just last month.

And today…

Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology Tasmania:

Severe Weather Warning for heavy rain for people in the North West Coast, North East and East Coast forecast districts.

Issued at 4:16 pm EST on Wednesday 18 September 2013.

So, Tasmania can get high winds and lots of rain. Technically it can’t possibly get a cyclone as it’s not tropical or even subtropical, but I have heard of winds exceeding 150 km/h and I read somewhere about a wave off of the West Coast being measured at 17.2 metres.

That’s massive! It’s over 50 feet. Get on that with your boardie!

Tasmania is known for being very windy, not surprising considering the location of this island, isolated in a very wild Tasman Sea.

I’m not sure that Tasmanians prepare for the storm season in the same way we do, but I am pretty sure they need to be prepared for high winds whenever they might come.

South Australia

Adelaide viewed from the hillsJust last month a storm ripped through Kingston, which is about 200 kilometres or so south of Adelaide. 30 houses were affected and around $10 million worth of damage was caused. In March last year 30 mm of rain fell in half an hour in an area stretching from the Yorke Peninsula into the Adelaide Hills. Up to 16,000 homes lost power and there was some local flooding.

Searching for floods in South Australia reveals quite a list with such headlines as “Storms cause flash flooding in SA”, “Outback storms leave an inland sea”, that one led to the closure of nearly all roads across South Australia’s outback in February 2011, and there was shock at the extent of damage caused in 2010 after thunderstorms swept across areas north of Adelaide.

Conclusion

This article is certainly not an in-depth guide to severe storms around Australia, but more of a quick look at windy weather. I had hoped that my search might reveal somewhere in Australia where you’d be wasting your money if you bought a kite.

I didn’t find one.

Wild weather can crop up just about anywhere in Australia, but cyclones seem to be limited to Queensland, Western Australia and Northern Territory. But high winds, electrical storms and flash flooding are just about everywhere around the country at varying levels of scariness.

I live in Queensland, which may just be the cyclone capital of Australia. And although I’ve seen some pretty shocking weather conditions, I’ve not seen anything to put me off of living in the city of Brisbane. Quite the opposite actually, I love the weather in this city. North East Queensland though, admittedly, may well pose tough challenges at times.

My instinct tells me that the further inland you go, the less windy it will be, so I’m sure there are many smaller towns and cities in Australia that have never seen high damaging winds. But part of the fun of moving to Australia is living near the coast, isn’t it?

So which city is the least windy in all of Australia?

I’ll leave the final word to the Australian Bureau’s Statistics (ABS)…

Perth is the windiest capital, with an average wind speed of 15.6 km/h; Canberra is the least windy with an average wind speed of 5.4 km/h.

So, despite the freak flash flooding of 1971, Canberra is Australia’s least windy city.

What’s it like where you live? Have you found Australia’s wind free location? Let us know in the comments below.

Sources: Australian Geographic, Wikipedia and ABC Riverland

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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Mary December 22, 2014, 2:32 pm | Link

    Sanctuary Point where your dog is 10 times more likely to be blown off the chain.

    • BobinOz December 22, 2014, 9:24 pm | Link

      A bit windy there is it Mary? Are you talking about the Sanctuary Point near Ulladulla?

  • Kyle October 19, 2013, 9:50 am | Link

    I’m beginning to think Melbourne should be considered the windiest. We have literally been experiencing gale force winds almost each and every day since the beginning of Spring, well over a month ago. There doesn’t seem to be any end in sight, either.

    Today is awful. Averaging gusts of 53km/hr where I live at this current moment.

    🙁

    • BobinOz October 19, 2013, 8:29 pm | Link

      Have you considered buying a kite Kyle? 🙂

      Seriously though, I hope the wind dies down soon, both for your sake and mine. I’m coming down to Melbourne next month for a weeks holiday and I really don’t want my hair blowing all over the place.

      Cheers mate, Bob

      • Kyle October 20, 2013, 9:37 am | Link

        Haha, the kite might take me up in the sky with it with these winds 😛

        I hope the weather will be pleasant when you are down here 🙂

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