Severe Tropical Cyclone Larry crossed the tropical north Queensland coast
near Innisfail during the morning of 20 March, 2006. Major damage to homes
and other buildings was caused by Larry as well as extensive damage to
local crops. Larry was quite small in size (like Severe Tropical Cyclone
Ingrid that crossed the coast near Cooktown in March 2005). Major damage
was along the portion of coast between Cairns in the north and Cardwell in
the south. Fortunately Larry crossed the coast on a neap tide, so the
significant storm surge and effects of the waves only caused the sea level
to exceed highest astronomical tide in a few locations and resulted in
only minor salt water inundation.
Apart from Severe Tropical Cyclone Ingrid, Larry is the first severe
tropical cyclone to cross the Queensland east coast since Rona in 1999
(which crossed near the Daintree River north of Cairns). The most damaging
cyclone impacts on Queensland's east coast prior to Larry were:
Aivu in 1989 - category 3 impact near Ayr (south of Townsville)
Winifred in 1986 - category 3 impact near Innisfail
Althea in 1971 - category 4 impact just north of Townsville
Ada in 1970 - category 4 impact over the Whitsunday Islands
Innisfail cyclone in 1918 (not named) - category 5 impact
Mackay cyclone in 1918 (not named) - category 5 impact
Mahina in 1899 - category 5 impact near Bathurst Bay on Cape York
Severe Tropical Cyclone Larry began as a low pressure system over the
eastern Coral Sea that was monitored by the Bureau of Meteorology from 16
March. It formed into a tropical cyclone in the early hours of 18 March,
and proceeded on an almost due westerly track towards the Queensland
coast, intensifying as it travelled. Larry became a severe tropical
cyclone (category three or higher) at 10am on 18 March, and continued to
intensify as it approached the Queensland coast, reaching Category 4 early
on 19 March. Just before crossing the coast, satellite picture
interpretation techniques indicated that Larry had an estimated intensity
of Category 5. The eye of Larry crossed the coast near Innisfail between
6:20am and 7:20am on 20 March. Larry started to weaken after crossing the
coast but maintained cyclone strength for several hundred kilometres
inland until the early hours of 21 March. Ex-tropical cyclone Larry was
further tracked as it moved into western Queensland to the north of Mount
Severe Tropical Cyclone Larry is the first severe tropical cyclone to
cross near a populated section of the east coast of Queensland since Rona
in 1999, and the effects of the winds on buildings were devastating.
Townships affected by the northern and southern portions of the eyewall of
the cyclone received the most damage, particularly Babinda and Silkwood,
however all townships in the region were severely affected by the cyclone.
Mareeba / Eacham / Millaa Millaa
93 damaged properties
80% of buildings damaged
Flying Fish Point
15% of homes damaged
50% of homes damaged
35% of private industry damaged
25% of Government buildings damaged (schools etc)
40% of homes suffered roof damage
70% of homes damaged
worst affected location
99% of homes lost roofs or suffered structural damage
30% of homes damaged
15% of private industry damaged
30% of homes damaged
50% of private industry damaged
30% of homes damaged
30% of homes damaged
20% of private industry damaged
45% of caravan park damaged
South Mission Beach
20% of homes damaged
20% of private industry damaged
Electricity transmission to the areas above (as well as Cairns) was
severely disrupted. Road and rail access to the region was also disrupted
for several days due to flooding. In the northwest of the state, heavy
rainfall from ex-Tropical Cyclone Larry caused several townships to be
isolated for several days due to flooding.
A significant storm surge was caused by Severe Tropical Cyclone Larry,
with sea levels exceeding the predicted tide by 1.75m at Clump Point (at
which point the instrument stopped recording prior to landfall), 1.76m at
Cardwell and 1.54m at Mourilyan. Surges of greater than 0.5m were
experienced at all recording stations from Cairns to Townsville. However
predicted tides were approximately 1.5m below the Heightest Astronomical
Tide (HAT) at the time of coastal crossing, so the total water level
equalled of only just exceeded HAT by a few centimetres at Cardwell, Clump
Point and Mourilyan.
Observations Summary (Last Updated 7April 2006)
Note: all times are AEST
The information shown below was preliminary only.
Initial investigations indicate that wind flows associated with Severe
Tropical Cyclone Larry were complicated possibly by the steep terrain
encountered at landfall. In some places there is also evidence of damage
consistent with tornadoes being generated. Click here for a satellite image showing the explosive
convection that occurred upon landfall (image from University of
The closest official instrumented observation site was the Bureau of
Meteorology's Automatic Weather Station(AWS) at South Johnstone. The
maximum gusts are recorded in the table below. Images of the AWS (looking
south) taken in 2002 before TC Larry and the day after TC Larry
(shown below...) show that the nearby buildings remained largely
unaffected consistent with the observed winds. However the distant hill
has obvious tree damage and erosion indicating possibly much higher
Major flooding in Queensland's north-west has led to sharks invading one
rural property 80 kilometres inland.
Locals from the region, 200 kilometres north of Mount Isa, say the area
around the Leichhardt River is having its worst floods since 1964.
Kylie Camp from Floraville Station says river levels that are normally 12
metres below the Leichhardt Falls are now 12 metres above that level.
She says the record flooding has now given sharks access to the station.
"I've never seen so many snakes in my life and also some sharks as well,"
"We do see sharks sometimes below the waterfalls that are normally here,
probably just trying to get out of the fast moving current into somewhere
"This is the biggest recorded flood here I think - it's the first time
I've ever seen such a thing."
It started off a bit windy for a few hours then all of a sudden it picked
up like in an instant. The winds were really strong and small bits of
debris were flying around. Before we knew it, Larry had upgraded to
Category 5. Trees were uprooted and bending over. We were sure that our
windows were going to smash as the force of the winds against them were
increasing. There was also a lot of rain and it was scary. We had only got
the side of Larry so imagine what Innisfail got. Our hearts go out to
them. It's a miracle that no-one died.
Esther, Cairns, Australia
We stocked up and prepared for a family night in the bathroom. As it
happened Townsville got of very lightly and captured much needed rain. I
feel there is a sting in the tail with a Cyclone Wati developing! Our
thoughts are with those poor people in Innisfail.
Adrian, Townsville Nth Qld, Australia
We're just a little bit north of the swirly bit, we had been cut off for
three days lest week because of torrential rains and floods, now it's the
other way around, we have many friends down that way that we haven't heard
from as yet but we are assured that there have been no fatalities. The
fact that all out services have to come through that region is a little
alarming though, thankfully we still have power, unlike last week! But,
cyclone Wati is following close behind so the next 72 hours could be
interesting. Hey, as they say up here... "hey, you wanted to live in the
John, Cooktown, Australia
Myself and a couple of friends are backpacking currently up the East coast
of Australia, we are currently stuck on Magnetic island which is a few
hundred kilometres south of Innisfail but all ferries were stopped
yesterday meaning we have to stay here for a few more nights. Even though
we are still quite far away the wind and rain was pretty dramatic last
night. We spent yesterday evening packing all loose equipment from the
hostel away and then sheltering in our dorms. It was quite dramatic.
Tom Perry, Ashford, Kent
We have been spared the worst. Until about 10pm last night we were
expecting to be within the worst of the zones but a last minute shift
moved the cyclone far enough north to only give us rain and gales. But our
blessing has been the curse of others with awful pictures and stories
coming through on ABC local radio of the sheer devastation. Yesterday was
very surreal - the real calm before the storm, the intense preparation and
then the watching and waiting foe something so unknown yet so inevitable.
Very weird 24 hours. Now watching Cyclone Wati which seems to be following
in the wake of Larry.
Kirsty McCullough, Townsville, Australia
I live in Trinity beach, 30k north of cairns. It's 2pm and people are
starting to get outside to clean up their gardens. In the northern suburbs
we got off lightly with only a few road signs and trees down. I drove into
cairns to see my daughter and the roads through the botanic gardens are
like an obstacle course, with big trees and broken power lines everywhere.
I saw little structural damage other than car ports and fences but
everybody's garden is deep in broken branches and leaves. We have been
told it could be several days before full electricity supply is restored
but all in all we seem, at least where I have been, to have got off
John Stevenson, Cairns Australia
Robert White and James King
Our flight was forced to turn back today after reports of a massive
cyclone in the Cairns area. We are both now stranded in Brisbane awaiting
more news of the opportunity to travel up there. As soon as we get there
we should be able to email some pictures of "The most devastating cyclone
Robert White and James King, Banbury, England
My sister is staying in Cairns while travelling, she just rang to say that
it is raining heavily and the roads are covered in water and it is
extremely windy and there is debris flying around everywhere. You can hear
the roof rattling on the phone and she says that rain is being driven in
through the windows.
Dan Murphy, UK
How the Saffir-Simpson Scale for rating Cyclone
Strength was devised
The Saffir-Simpson scale was devised about 35 years ago by engineer
Herbert Saffir and meteorologist Robert Simpson. At the time, Simpson
directed the National Hurricane Center in Miami and Saffir ran his own
engineering firm in neighboring Coral Gables.
Simpson and Saffir both chuckled when asked about the recent fame of their
rating scale. But they also were gratified that their brainchild had found
its way into popular speech. "People are looking for yardsticks," Simpson said. "Our language
has demonstrated the use of many expressions that started out to be used
for one phenomenon, then were used to refer to many other things."
Saffir said he's "very pleased that the public is aware of the scale and
can see the difference between a Category One and a Category Five storm.
That's extremely important."
Saffir and Simpson created the scale to help local relief agencies and
emergency management officials better prepare for approaching hurricanes.
Until recently, the scale was mostly known to meteorologists and officials
at emergency management and relief agencies.
Simpson and Saffir each witnessed powerful hurricanes long before they
devised the scale. Simpson watched a hurricane deliver a devastating blow
to his hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1919. Although he was only
six years old at the time, he still has vivid memories of that
In the summer of 1947, Saffir, a New York City native, took a job as a
county engineer in Miami. Soon after he arrived, a pair of hurricanes put
much of South Florida under water.
About 12 years later, Saffir had set up his own engineering firm when the
United Nations commissioned him to write a report on providing low-cost
housing in areas of the world that are subject to hurricanes.
As he worked on the report, Saffir realized that there were only two ways
of categorizing hurricanes—major and minor.
"I worked up five scales [of hurricanes] based on a subjective description
of the damage that could occur for each category," Saffir said.
Saffir-Simpson Scale: Cyclone Intensity
Wind speeds: 74 to 95 miles an hour (119 to 153 kilometers an hour)
Barometric pressure: No lower than 28.94 inches, or 980 millibars
Storm surge: 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters)
Likely damage: Minimal. No significant damage to buildings. Damage
will be mainly to unanchored mobile homes, trees, and shrubbery. There
also will be some coastal flooding and minor damage to piers.
Wind speeds: 96 to 110 miles an hour (154 to 177 kilometers an hour)
Barometric pressure: 28.50 to 28.92 inches, or 965 to 979 millibars
Storm surge: 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 meters)
Likely damage: Moderate. Damages to some roofs, doors and windows.
Considerable damage to trees, shrubbery and mobile homes. Some
flooding damages to piers and small craft. Some small craft may break
Wind speeds: 111 to 130 miles an hour (179 to 209 kilometers an hour)
Barometric pressure: 27.91 to 28.47 inches, or 945 to 964 millibars
Storm surge: 9 to 12 feet (2.7 to 3.7 meters)
Likely damage: Extensive. Some damage to small residences and utility
buildings. Mobile homes destroyed. Coastal flooding destroys smaller
structures, and larger structures damaged by floating debris. Flooding
may occur far inland.
Wind speeds: 131 to 155 miles an hour (211 to 249 kilometers an hour)
Barometric pressure: 27.17 to 27.88 inches, or 920 to 944 millibars
Storm surge: 13 to 18 feet (4 to 5.5 meters)
Likely damage: Extreme. Heavy damage to many residences, with roofs
completely destroyed on small residences. Major erosion of beaches.
Flooding may occur far inland.
Wind speeds: Exceeding 155 miles an hour (249 kilometers an hour)
Barometric pressure: Lower than 27.17 inches, or 920 millibars
Storm surge: More than 18 feet (5.5 meters)
Likely damage: Catastrophic. Roofs completely destroyed on many
residences and larger buildings. Some buildings completely destroyed.
Major flood damage to lower floors of buildings near the shore.
Massive evacuation may be required. Flooding may occur far inland.
International Definitions(Severe Tropical Cyclones,
Typhoons and Hurricanes)
Tropical cyclones can be defined in different ways in elsewhere in the
world. Often news reports from the United States or Asia will refer
to hurricanes or typhoons. These are all tropical cyclones, but with
different names. While the category definitions are not identical,
the following provides an approximate guide for comparison
Tropical Cyclone Larry hit Innisfail, Australia, on Monday morning,
ripping the roofs off buildings and damaging 55 percent of the homes in
the city. "It looks like an atomic bomb hit the place," said
the mayor, and city residents repeated his claim. Could Larry's 180 mile-per-hour
wind gusts cause as much damage as an atomic bomb?
It depends how you calculate damage. A Category 4 cyclone like Larry might
level buildings over an area of 2,500 square miles. (A hurricane is just
what we call a tropical
cyclone that originates in our part of the world.) It would take a
10-megaton nuclear weapon to inflict damage over such a wide area. By
comparison, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were only
about 15 and 21 kilotons. (There are 1,000 kilotons in a megaton.) It's a
little tricky to compare the two, since a nuke would obliterate everything
near to the site of the explosion and inflict less damage as you moved
farther away. A hurricane, on the other hand, would cause less severe
damage, but the damage would be more uniform and over a larger area.
You can get a better sense of how the two compare by looking at the devastation caused by a nuclear weapon at
various distances from the explosion. Then, it's possible to figure out
what kind of tropical storm would cause a similar amount of damage at each
distance. Savannah, Ga., commissioned this kind of analysis in advance of
the G-8 meetings of 2004. Part of the study looked at the structural
damage caused by a 25-kiloton nuclear explosion. At a radius of three
miles, the damage would be equivalent to that caused by a piddling
hurricane with wind speeds averaging 80 mph. At half that distance from
the blast, the effects would be more like a Category 5 storm with 160 mph
explosions can destroy a city with thermal radiation and a wave of
kinetic energy. They also generate high-speed winds that cause damage in
much the way a hurricane might. The blast wave consists of an expanding
line of very high pressure (called "overpressure") that draws gusting
winds in its wake. The wave of overpressure sweeps past structures very
quickly, followed by winds that can crash into them at hundreds of miles
per hour. Thermal radiation can also produce high winds by igniting
flammable materials and setting off a mass fire. The rising heat from a mass fire causes
cool air to rush in from the periphery at hurricane velocities. A real
hurricane works in a similar way.
Nuclear blast-winds don't affect buildings in quite the same way as
hurricane winds of the same speed. The nuclear blast-wind looks like a
strong pulse, or gust, rather than the sustained winds of a hurricane. In
that sense, it causes damage more like a tornado would—by hitting a
building with high intensity for a short period. On the other hand, blast
winds generally hit a building from one direction like hurricane winds.
Tornado winds cause extra damage by twirling around as they hit.
Affect of Cyclone Larry on Avocado Growers
Avocados Australia, peak industry body said cyclone Larry had caused
devastation to one of the Australia’s largest avocado production areas and
to the lives of hundreds of avocado growers.
The main growing areas in North Queensland have been destroyed in the
middle of their harvest period. Resulting is large losses for growers in
what was looking to be one their most successful seasons in many years.
Over $15 million worth of crop was lost in just a few short hours. The
North Queensland avocado crop was currently supplying 80% of the fruit in
the market. The next production area to begin harvesting is
Avocados Australia, Chief Executive Officer Antony Allen said
initial reports indicated the majority of production areas had been
“Communities in producing areas will be severely effected in what was the
height of the harvesting and packing period for avocado businesses”, he
“We understand some growers have lost their entire avocado crop and
large numbers of trees have been completely up-rooted. It could be up to
five years before the North Queensland industry is capable of recovery.”
“The North Queensland industry and community will require long term
assistance to be able to rebuild and we will work with the Queensland
Department of Primary Industries & Fisheries and our fellow peak
industry bodies on what can be done to help rebuild the North Queensland
Banana growers website was unavailable
How does Cyclone Larry compare to other cyclones?
By Tim Arvier
National Nine News
The images coming out of Innisfail have shocked Australians. Houses have
been destroyed, crops obliterated and livelihoods shattered. Many have
called Cyclone Larry one of the biggest ever to hit Australia. But how
does it actually compare with other cyclones which have struck our shores?
Below is a list of some of the most ferocious cyclones that have lashed
Australian towns and cities. We also compare these with Hurricane Katrina.
Cyclone Larry, March 2006.
After wreaking havoc in Innisfail, Larry has now weakened into a low
pressure system and is not expected to be any further threat.
At its peak, the cyclone registered winds of up to 290km/h and was graded
a category five, the highest possible grading for a cyclone.
While the economic damage may run into the hundreds of millions of
dollars, amazingly, no one was killed.
Cyclone Mahina, March 1899.
The most deadly cyclone in Australian history, Mahina struck at Bathurst
Bay near Cape Melville in Queensland.
It completely destroyed a pearling fleet, with over 400 people losing
Massive flooding affected many Aboriginal communities, with around 100
indigenous Australians thought to have perished.
Unfortunately no comprehensive documentation of Mahina's size or wind
Cyclone Ada, January 1970.
A category four cyclone, Ada struck holiday resorts on the Whitsunday
Islands in north Queensland.
Fourteen people were killed and luxury yachts worth millions of dollars
Widespread flooding also occurred between Bowen and Mackay.
Cyclone Tracy, December 1974.
Probably the most famous cyclone in Australian history, Tracy flattened
Darwin on Christmas Eve 32 years ago.
Of a population of 43,000, 25,000 had their homes destroyed as Tracy
scored a direct hit.
Sixty-five people were killed, 16 of them at sea.
Tracy's wind gusts recorded speeds of up to 250kmh and she was graded a
She also dumped 195mm of rain on Darwin in under eight hours.
Cyclone Winifred, February 1986.
This cyclone also ravaged Innisfail. While it crossed the coast further
south than Larry and was only a category three, it still managed to
destroy 50 homes and damage hundreds of other large buildings around the
Three people died and millions of dollars worth of sugar cane and fruit
crops were ruined.
Cyclone Bobby, February 1995.
Cyclone Bobby was graded a category four and passed the coast near the
town of Onslow in Western Australia.
While it damaged many farms and houses, the biggest losses occurred at
sea, where seven people were killed after their boats sank.
Cyclone Ingrid, March 2005.
Ingrid is infamous for threatening not only northern Queensland but also
the Northern Territory.
It passed the Queensland coast north of the Lockart River, moved across
the mainland into the Gulf of Carpentaria and then terrified residents in
the Top End.
While Ingrid was an intense category five cyclone with wind speeds of
almost 300kmh, it wasn't very large, which meant its severe impact was
limited to what lay directly in its path.
Ultimately the cyclone passed wide of Darwin and although many rural
properties were damaged, no fatalities were recorded.
Hurricane Katrina, August 2005.
While they have different names, hurricanes and cyclones are actually the
same thing, also known as typhoons in southeast Asia.
With winds of up to 280kmh, Hurricane Katrina is comparable in strength to
many of Australia's cyclones.
However, in terms of size and the damage it caused, Katrina makes our
disasters look like a storm in a teacup.
Striking Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, Katrina was the biggest
hurricane to hit the US since record-keeping began.
It led to the deaths of 1599 people and is estimated to have caused over
100 billion dollars in damage.
At its peak it measured around 640km in diameter. In comparison, Cyclone
Tracy was only 50km wide.
However, despite such massive wind speeds and immense size, much of the
damage was actually caused by storm surge.
A common feature of cyclones, storm surge is a sudden, dramatic rise in
ocean levels caused by the increased winds.
In Katrina's case, the breaking of levees combined with a dramatic surge
saw 80 percent of New Orleans flooded.
When the hurricane finally passed, lawlessness, disease and a slow relief
effort quickly became the main problems.
So while it will be of little comfort to those sleeping out in the
aftermath of Larry, they can at least console themselves that relief is on
the way, no looting has been reported and health authorities insist the
risk of disease is extremely low.