Cyclone Yasi: hide in the bath with a matress over your head

Cyclone Yasi- pic from NASA

“Remember, people are irreplaceable,” said Queensland Premier Anna Bligh as she urged residents between Cairns and Cardwell to evacuate immediately. “Do not bother to pack bags, just grab each other and get to an area of safety. This is the most serious and destructive cyclone you can have and it’s continuing to make its way towards the Queensland coast.”

As people all over Australia get set to watch the devastation caused by Cyclone Yasi and residents of Far North Queensland literally escape to protect their lives, we take a look at what a cyclone really is and what to do if you are ever affected.

What is a cyclone?

Tropical Cyclones are low pressure systems which develop in the tropics.

How are they formed?

In order for a cyclone to form, the ocean waters need to be at least 26°C.  Water evaporates and forms clouds above the warm water. If there is low air pressure where the clouds are formed, it pulls them in and they begin to rotate. Clouds continue to form and begin to spin more. This is the stage when it can develop into a mature cyclone, or lose its momentum.

In order for the system to be categorised as a cyclone, its average sustained wind speed needs to exceed 63 kilometres per hour. To be classified as severe, the average sustained wind speed needs to exceed 118 kilometres per hour.


The cyclone is so large it would almost cover the United States

How common are cyclones in Australia

Australia experiences tropical cyclones regularly around the Northern coastline region due to its proximity to the tropics. Cyclone season is typically between November and April.

How do they get named?

The Bureau of Meteorology simply picks a name from a list. In around 1900 the Queensland government meteorologist originally named them after figures in Greek and Roman mythology, but because he didn’t like politicians he started using their names for cyclones.

The practise of naming cyclones by the BOM started officially in 1963. Initially they used female names but started using male names as well in 1975.

But Yasi wasn’t on the official list?

Cyclone Yasi was named in Fiji because that is where it started.

Why are people being told to stay in their homes and off the roads?


Roads need to be kept clear for evacuees, police, road crews and emergency vehicles.

What should you do in the case of a cyclone?

High care patients being evacuated from Cairns hospital

There is usually sufficient warning given before a cyclone so that affected residents can be evacuated.

What happens if you cannot evacuate?

You should hide in the  smallest room in the home – that might be the laundry or the bathroom and try to cover yourself with a mattress or something that provides some cushioning.

Who can I call for help and when?

If it is a life-threatening emergency, phone 000 straight away. If it is regarding flood or storm damage to your home, call SES on 132 500 and they will come to your home once it is safe to do so. Do not phone emergency services for household preparation assistance.

Should I tape my windows?

If a cyclone warning is issued, Emergency Management Queensland advises residents to tape their windows in a criss-crossing pattern using strong packing tape and draw all curtains to minimise the risk of glass particles flying. Tinted windows do not need to be taped.

What should I do with garage doors, leave them open or shut?

Garage doors are designed to be shut in a cyclone. To minimise shaking and the risk of the door popping open, a car can be parked against the door with a blanket acting as a buffer in between. Products are also available from hardware stores and garage door retailers to enhance safety.

Do I need to store extra water for washing and the toilet?

Yes. Fill up your bathtub, and if your bin is almost empty fill it up with water to use to flush the toilet. Water from your pool can also be used. Fill clean containers with water for drinking.


 Do I need to tie down things like the kids’ trampoline, the barbecue, outdoor settings?

The easiest thing to do is bring them inside. Trampolines should be dismantled if possible, but if not, can be placed upside down and tied to steel pickets in the ground. Dinghies can be filled with water to prevent them becoming projectiles.

Where can I go for emergency shelter?

More than 100 buildings have been identified in the Cairns area as possible cyclone shelters. Emergency services will assess which ones can be used and advise media for immediate publication and broadcast.


What should I do if I want to leave my home before the cyclone hits?

Carry out all safety precautions and tell your neighbours where you have gone, so emergency services do not waste vital resources searching for you.

Cyclone track map from BOM

What about my pets?

Get ID on all pets and keep them confined (cats in crates where possible). Pets will bolt out windows and doors when scared.

Source: Cairns.com.au

How do I keep informed of what is happening with Cyclone Yasi?

For more information and to keep abreast of what is happening click here

Track Cyclone Yasi here

Cairns Webcam here

For live cyclone updates click here

And finally, a word from one of my favourite writers, ABC’s Annabel Crabb who writes at The Drum:

“…..whatever happens in Queensland tonight, let’s hope that whatever we are called upon to do to help, as a nation, when the sun comes up tomorrow, we can avoid some of the foolishness of recent weeks.

Let’s hope that arbitrary obsessiveness about the precise degree of federal surplus two years’ hence, or the bickering over who has to pay levies and who gets excused, can be replaced by a common acceptance that some emergencies are absolute.

Let’s hope that the response from Canberra is less about mutual accusations of vile opportunism and more about a gracious retreat from the political gun-fight in deference to the extreme misfortune of others.

And in the meantime, let’s hope that those in peril can hold on.”