Cyclone Tracy

How did Cyclone Tracy impact on the environment?

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2016-09-04 01:45:25

Cyclone Tracy, 1974, ended in almost complete destruction, which

caused a catastrophic disruption to Darwin.

Water supplies were down as Darwin's supply was contaminated and

there were no clean supplies. Sewerage lines were cut, resulting in

a lack of sanitation, and poisons therefore leached out into the

environment. Surprisingly, there was not a lot of drenching rain or

storm surge associated with Cyclone Tracy, so none of the usual

problems resulted from that quarter.

Trees were uprooted, and animal habitats destroyed. Witnesses

reported absolute silence the following morning, signalling the

loss of the majority of bird life at that time. As with any such

natural disaster, the food chain was broken, and it was many months

before food chain order was reestablished among the various

species. The beaches were strewn with dead marine or

coastal-dwelling creatures.

Cyclone Tracy's environmental impact was quite large


  • litter was in the ocean, destroying animals' habitats
  • trees were uprooted and turned over
  • metal, glass and other debris was thrown all over town
  • gardens were pulled out of the ground

Further information:

Many coral reefs, fish and animals were damaged and are still


Wind speeds of 217 km/h registered at Darwin Airport before the

equipment was itself blown away and there were estimates of maximum

speeds of up to 300 km/h.

Seeing this destruction also brings home another matter - Darwin

is a very new city simply because there was almost nothing left

standing when Tracy had finished her work.

With so much destruction of both homes and infrastructure, the

population of about 45,000 was reduced to about 10,000 by a mass

evacuation of people to other Australian cities. This was organised

by Major-General Alan Stretton, Director-General of the Natural

Disasters Organisation and Minister for the Northern Territory, Rex


Many of the families that left never returned and the rebuilding

attracted people from many different places resulting in a young,

diverse population who rebuilt the city.

After the cyclone building codes were upgraded dramatically to

try to prevent such extensive damage next time a cyclone passed by.

And the rebuilding was largely done by the NT Housing Commission

using only a limited number of designs on a large scale. At one

stage nearly 90% of homes in Darwin were owned by either Government

Departments or large national companies such as banks.

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