On Friday 23 March, tropical cyclone Nora developed over the Arafura Sea then tracked south-east towards the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Before the cyclone made landfall, swift water rescue technicians and emergency management coordinators from Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, as well as additional police officers, were strategically deployed to Gulf communities in readiness for response and recovery coordination. The State Disaster Coordination Centre was activated at 6.00pm on Saturday 24 March and remained operational until Friday 6 April 2018.
Nora made landfall at 11.25pm on 24 March between Pormpuraaw and Kowanyama on Cape York Peninsula’s west coast as a Category 3 severe tropical cyclone. Very destructive wind gusts of 195 kilometres per hour were experienced at the cyclone’s core, impacting a number of Indigenous communities, and damaging critical infrastructure and local agribusiness. Emergency Alert campaigns supplemented early warnings from local governments to people expected to be affected by the cyclone.
Thirty people from Pormpuraaw and Kowanyama, including 21 with health issues, were evacuated to Cairns and returned to their communities later that week.
Significant flooding and wind damage occurred in Kowanyama, which experienced 128 millimetres of rain in the 24 hours to 9:00am on the Sunday. Severe winds also downed many trees and powerlines, cutting electricity supply to over 220 homes and businesses in Pormpuraaw and 20 more in Mapoon. Heavy rain and strong winds initially delayed efforts to restore power and progress recovery in these remote communities.
Nora was downgraded to a Category 2 cyclone at 4.00am on Sunday 25 March. Kowanyama Airport experienced a peak wind gust of 100 kilometres per hour that day; warnings of heavy rainfall, and storm and gale force winds, remained in place for far north inland Queensland. Nora was downgraded to a Category 1 cyclone at about 1.00pm.
Nora continued to travel south along the Gulf Country coast before moving inland and weakening to a tropical low late that evening. The following day, schools at Pormpuraaw, Kowanyama, Karumba and Burketown remained closed while clean-up efforts commenced.
Over the next two days, the tropical low and a monsoon trough stretching to its east and west produced moderate to heavy rainfall to the northern Top End and eastern parts of the Northern Territory, and across the northern, western, central and east coasts of Queensland. Very heavy falls and flooding were recorded in the Cape York Peninsula coasts and Gulf Country. Several locations across northern Queensland recorded their wettest March day on 26-27 March including Port Douglas, which received 593 millietres of rainfall in 24 hours.
Bureau of Meteorology forecasters issued flood warnings to communities from Cape Tribulation to Townsville, as the low-pressure system was expected to cause flash flooding across northern towns including Cairns, Innisfail, Port Douglas and Mossman. A thunderstorm warning was issued for Cairns and Port Douglas.
Major flooding was experienced in the Barron, Herbert, Tully, Johnstone and Murray Rivers and in the Mulgrave and Russell River catchments. Flash flooding occurred around Cairns on 26 March, requiring more than 40 swift water rescues, and 42 people were evacuated from two caravan parks in the early hours of 27 March. Areas around Cairns and Mossman experienced rainfall totals between 150 and 200 millimetres and the township of Ingham was inundated by floodwaters for the second time that month.
The Australian Government made relief funds available to communities affected by the cyclone through the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA).