Queensland and New South Wales, March 2017

Tropical Cyclone Debbie, 2017

Quick Statistics

10 Fatalities

Tropical Cyclone (TC) Debbie first reached cyclone strength on 25 March 2017, before developing over the next two days into a Category 2 cyclone. TC Debbie was forecast to increase rapidly in intensity before making landfall on the Queensland coast; this prediction was borne out as TC Debbie made landfall as a Category 4 Severe Tropical Cyclone near Airlie Beach on 28 March 2017.

From Airlie Beach TC Debbie tracked inland on a south-westerly track, losing tropical cyclone intensity at about 3.00am on 29 March. Ex-TC Debbie continued south, turning onto a south-easterly track and passing over the coast of northern New South Wales and out to sea on the 31 March.

The impacts of TC Debbie were twofold. Storm damage resulted from both the high winds associated with the cyclone, and the very heavy rain that came in the wake of Debbie’s track. The highest wind gust recorded in Queensland in recent times, at 263 kilometres per hour, was noted at Hamilton Island as TC Debbie passed over, and damage occurred throughout the Whitsundays, in coastal towns such as Proserpine and Bowen, and inland to Collinsville.

Significant fire and emergency service resources were mobilised to support operations following on the impact of TC Debbie, both from the affected states and interstate. Personnel from South Australia, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania were involved; New South Wales resources deployed into Queensland as well as operating in their home state. Sadly, at least ten fatalities resulted from the flooding and severe weather associated with TC Debbie, and hundreds of dwellings were severely damaged by the impacts of high winds and inundation.

Associated rain and flooding

Observed rainfall totals included:

29 March 2017

  • Greenmount and Dumbleton Rocks on the Pioneer River – 92 millimetres in 60 minutes

30 March 2017

  • Beaudesert – 156 millimetres in six hours
  • O'Reillys – 90 millimetres in six hours
  • Rathdowney – 118 millimetres in six hours
  • Round Mountain – 119 millimetres in six hours
  • Rudds Lane (on the Logan-Albert River) – 148 millimetres in six hours

31 March 2017

  • Lismore, New South Wales – 324.8 millimetres in the 18 hours to 3.00am – wettest March day in over 100 years of record
  • Tweed River catchment – average of 374.1 millimetres – wettest day on record for any month

Significant riverine flooding ensued in a number of catchments including the Condamine, Burnett, Fitzroy, Logan, and Tweed Rivers. At the height of the flooding in New South Wales, evacuation orders affected more than 30,000 people and approximately 17,000 people were isolated by flood water.


Cyclone Debbie: Our road to recovery in the Whitsundays
Whitsunday Regional Council


Paradise Lost: Airlie Beach and Whitsundays battered by Cyclone Debbie
ABC News


Cyclone Debbie 'screaming and howling'
The Sydney Morning Herald



This incident was included in the Major Incidents Report 2016-17 (Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience, 2017). The report acknowledges the following sources:

Bureau of Meteorology 2017, 'Monthly Weather Review, March 2017.' At: http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/mwr/aus/mwr-aus-201703.pdf