Presenting Mission Beach
C4 Resource Guide

Rainfall 2004
(in mm)


Mission Beach is situated in the 'Wet Tropics' and most people visit to enjoy our lush rainforest and our easy access to the Great Barrier Reef. To have such tropical rainforest we have to have rainfall, and the average for the area is 2982mm or just less than 120 inches per year.

Records have been kept for the Mission Beach area since 1926 and during that period the year with lowest rainfall was 1932 with 1567 mm or 62.5 inches,the wettest year being 1981 with 5085mm or 203.4 inches. The wettest 24 hour period was February 12th 1927 with 401mm or just over 16 inches, certainly a heavy shower.

The Rainfall Table in PDF to download for your convenience details rainfall patterns for the Mission Beach area for the period 1932 to 2002. The asterisks after the date indicate cyclones which influenced the rainfall substantially in those years.

Devastated rainforest after cyclone Winifred 1986

Cyclones can have a dramatic effect on the rainfall. In 1979, when cyclone Peter hovered off the coast, Mt Bellenden Ker (1554m elevation) recorded 1140mm or 45.6 inches during the 24 hours of January 5th.

The most severe cyclone in the Mission Beach area was one that crossed the coast at Innisfail on 10th March 1918. A tidal surge rolled over Clump Point and covered Mission Beach by 3 metres of water for over 100 metres inland. Pumice is still found on some of this land. In recent years, the most severe cyclone was Cyclone Winifred in February 1986. Although structural damage was not so great the damage to the rainforest was critical. The wind blew for 17 hours and when it abated and dawn broke it was to a lunar landscape. There was not a leaf left on a tree! The vines were the first to recover and they placed a blanket over the forest to allow the young seedlings to grow. The forest still hasn't fully recovered.

The rain and cyclones seem disheartening, but for a lot of the year our weather can be ideal. Winter months are usually very mild, with daytime temperatures ranging between 16° – 25° celsius and ocean temperatures never dropping below 22°celsius. Although showers are likely at any time of the year, most of our rain falls during the wet season December – April.


FROM 1878 TO 1997
Kindly supplied by The Bureau of Meteorology in Cairns.


8 Mar 1878 - TC hit Cairns. Many properties destroyed. Steamer Louise, and sailing vessels Merchant, Kate Conley and Hector Miss were sunk in Cairns inlet with no survivors ever found.

2 Feb 1882 - TC hit Cardwell with considerable damage.

29 Mar 1890 - TC crossed Coast at Ingham 229 mm of rain in 24 hours at Ingham.

9 Mar 1903 – Leonta. TC recurved over Townsville. Bar read down to 965 hPa. The Townsville Hospital with 36 cm thick brick walls was wrecked by the wind. Eight people were killed in the hospital and there were 10 deaths in total.

28 Jan 1906 - TC crossed the coast at Cairns causing devastation.

28 Jan 1910 - TC passed to the east of Cairns. Heavy gale and tremendous seas at Cairns. Bombala ran aground.

7 April 1912 - TC recurved east of Cairns. Several houses badly damaged at Innisfail. Crops suffered badly, 40 % loss of banana and sugar crops. 4 boats lost.

31 Jan 1913 - TC crossed the coast near Cairns. At Innisfail balconies and roofs were lost. Most damage though, was caused by severe floods. Goods and buildings washed down river. Four lives lost. In district 90% of banana crop lost and severe damage to other crops. SS Innamincka grounded. Record floods Cairns district with much damage to roads and bridges and railway lines.

10 Mar 1918 - TC crossed the coast and passed directly over Innisfail. Pen on Post Office barograph was prevented from registering below 948 hPa by flange on bottom of drum. 926 hPa read at the Mourilyan Sugar mill at 7pm 10 Mar. In Innisfail, then a town of 3,500 residents, only around 12 houses remained intact. A report from the Harbours and Marine Engineer indicated that at Maria Creek the sea rose to a height of about 3m above high water. All buildings and structures were destroyed by the storm surge in the Bingil Bay Mission Beach area. Reports suggest that 37 people died in Innisfail while 40 to 60 (mostly aborigines) lost their lives in nearby areas.

9 Feb 1926 - TC recurved east of Townsville. Floods Herbert and Tully rivers. Damage to crops.

22 Jan 1934 - TC crossed coast at Cairns. Serious flooding over large part of state. One drowning.

8 Feb 1946 - TC crossed coast near Cairns. Flood rains North Coast.

2 Mar 1946 - TC recurved over Cairns and Townsville. Pressures of 983 hPa were read at Cairns and Innisfail. Record flooding occurred in the Burdekin. Considerable damage occurred with the loss of some lives.

6 Mar 1956 – Agnes. TC passed right over Townsville Met Office with bar down to 961 hPa. Widespread damage between Cairns and Mackay. Four deaths occurred from floods in the Interior.

15/16 Apr 1964 – Gertie. TC recurved to NE of Whitsunday Group. Heavy coastal rain with sugar cane damaged around Cairns and Innisfail. Flood waters damaged railway lines and bridges and a few cars were lost in swollen creeks.

6 Dec 1964 – Flora. TC from Gulf entered Coral Sea near Innisfail and moved ESE. Severe flooding occurred with the main northern railway line washed away in several places. Cardwell was isolated by flooding.

30 Jan 1965 – Judy. Long lived TC came from Gulf into Coral sea near Innisfail and brought flood rains to North Coast.

16 Feb 1971 – Gertie. TC crossed the coast at Cardwell. Damage was confined to trees and power lines. There was also some sugar cane damage. Flooding closed some bridges but damage was minimal.

24 Dec 1971 – Althea. TC crossed the coast just north of Townsville with a 106 knot gust being reported at the Townsville Met Office. There were three deaths in Townsville and damage costs in the Townsville region reached 50 million (1971 dollars). On Magnetic Island 90% of the houses were damaged or destroyed.

31 Jan 1977 - Keith. TC first hit the coast east of Cairns, then moved back over the ocean and crossed the coast again at Cape Cleveland. Only minor wind damage occurred, however wind and rain combined to cause extensive losses to the banana and sugar crop. Floods cut the highway between Cairns and Townsville. Two men were killed when a yacht smashed into rocks on the western side of Acheron Is.

6-10 Mar 1977 - Otto. TC moved from the Gulf into the Coral Sea near Cape Tribulation and made landfall again near Bowen. There was no significant wind damage however it severely aggravated already serious floods between Cairns and Ingham which resulted in 6 million (1977 dollars) crop and property damage.

1-2 Jan 1979 – Peter. TC moved from the Gulf to the Cairns region. There was no significant wind damage, however there was record rainfall. Serious flooding occurred from Tully to Cooktown especially around Cairns. Flood damage was estimated at 10 million (1979 dollars) and there were two deaths.

26 Feb 1981 – Freda. TC developed near Cooktown and moved away from the coast. There was flooding in the Barron, Herbert, Tully and Johnstone rivers.

1 Feb 1986 – Winifred. TC crossed the coast with a radar eye diameter of 41 km just south of Innisfail. The worst affected areas were between Babinda and Tully. Instrumentation at Cowley Beach, which was near the southern eye wall at landfall, showed the maximum average wind was between 68 knots and 83 knots. Central pressures of 958 hPa were observed at both Cowley Beach and South Johnstone. A near record flood occurred in the Herbert River and a major flood occurred in the Tully River. The total cost of damage reached 130 million (1986 dollars) of which $87M was agricultural damage. There was a 1.6m storm surge on the gauge at Clump Pt. There were 3 deaths, two from wind effects and one drowning.

22-25 Dec 1990 – Joy. TC intensified as it approached Cairns late on 22 Dec. Destructive winds buffeted the Coast and Tablelands between Cape Tribulation and Innisfail. There was structural damage to buildings however large economic losses resulted from damage to crops road surfaces, power lines and water supplies. Damage cost reached 62 million (1990 dollars).

9 Mar 1997 - Justin I. TC lay well out to sea but was a very large cyclone and tides exceeded the highest anticipated tide at most centres between Bundaberg and Cooktown.

22 Mar 1997 - Justin II. TC crossed the coast near Cairns while rapidly intensifying. The lowest pressure was 994.6 hPa in the eye. Two people were killed as Justin passed over the area. The total horticultural and sugar cane damage bill was expected to reach 150 million (1997 dollars). Damage to roads and bridges etc. expected to exceed 20 million (1997 dollars). There was widespread tree damage which brought down power lines and caused massive blackouts. Major flooding occurred in the Johnstone, Tully and Herbert Rivers.

11 Feb 1999 – Rona. TC crossed the coast between Cape Tribulation and Port Douglas. Lowest pressure was 970 hPa at landfall, with wind gusts 160 – 170 km/h. There was major flooding in the Barron, Johnstone, Herbert and Tully Rivers, equalling the near record floods of 1986. In Innisfail, 100 houses were flooded above floor level.

25 February - 12 March 2000 - Steve. TC Steve, although not particularly devastating, was nonetheless one of the more remarkable Australian tropical cyclones on record. It came about as close to circumnavigating the continent as any cyclone has ever done. Steve formed in the Coral Sea on 25th February, made a direct hit on Cairns on 27th, moved to the Gulf of Carpentaria and made a second landfall near Bing Bong, NT, on 1st March. Steve moved westward across the "Top End" of the Northern Territory: 1 March about 100 km east of Katherine, on 2nd about 300 km south-southeast of Darwin, on 3rd about 100 km east-northeast of Port Hedland. Steve continued moving slowly west-southwestward near the Pilbara coast. Steve crossed the Western Australian coast on 6th March about 135 km west-southwest of Karratha. Category 2 cyclone Steve weakened as it crossed over the northwestern corner of Western Australia, passing southeast of Onslow. The storm remained intact while over land and actually began to show some signs of re-intensification before emerging into the Indian Ocean on 7th March about 145 km south-southwest of Exmouth or 190 km north of Carnarvon, moving slowly to the west-southwest. Steve slowly weakened once more on 8th March. The cyclone did not advance very far into the Southeast Indian Ocean before it stalled and associated with a frontal system approaching southwestern Australia. The weakening cyclone was expected to cross the coast in Shark Bay during the afternoon 8th March. The storm made landfall near Hamelin. The weakening Steve continued southeastward across Western Australia. The remnant LOW eventually moved out into the Great Australian Bight where it produced gales along the coasts of Western Australia and South Australia as an extratropical LOW before speeding off to the southeast.

31 March - 2 April 2000 - Tessi. TC Tessi formed in the Coral Sea well southeast of New Guinea or roughly 600 nm east of Cooktown. Cyclone Tessi made landfall on 2nd April about 20 nm south of Lucinda. In the Townsville area the cyclone caused widespread wind damage, mainly to trees and power lines with about 35,000 persons left without power. Widespread flooding occurred with the associated downpour. There was also some wave damage with several boats destroyed. Wind peak estimate was 45 kts to 55 kts.

28 March - 7 April 2000 - Vaughan. TC Vaughan started as a depression roughly 150 nm south-southwest of Port Vila in Vanuatu. On 1st April the depression began to move slowly to the northwest. The system was named Tropical Cyclone Vaughan at 1800 UTC on 1st April with average winds estimated at 40 kts. Vaughan was located about 575 nm east-northeast of Cairns, moving west at 11 kts. On 5th April the center of the cyclone was located about 350 nm east-northeast of Cairns and moving toward the west-southwest at 10 kts. Vaughan collapsed just off the Queensland coast east of Cooktown on 6th April. The intensity of Vaughan was up to 60 kts.

22 - 27 February 2001 - Abigail. TC Abigail was christened on 24 February 10:00 AM EST with the center located about 30 nm east-northeast of Cairns. During the first phase of its life Abigail was a tropical cyclone for only three hours. The cyclone crossed the coast about 30 km northwest of Cairns over the northern Cairns beaches (Palm Cove and Ellis Beach) around noon on the 24th. By 1:00 PM Abigail was inland and had been downgraded to a LOW, moving westward at 5 kts.
The remnant LOW crossed the base of the Cape York Peninsula, and on 25th February emerged into the Gulf of Carpentaria about 75 nm east of Mornington Island. The LOW was upgraded once more to TC Abigail with the center located about 60 nm northeast of Mornington Island. Abigail began to intensify fairly rapidly making Abigail a Category 3 cyclone. The point of landfall was about 150 km southeast of Port McArthur or 150 km west of Mornington Island Township. As it approached the coast Abigail weakened slightly into a Category 2 cyclone. After landfall the weakening cyclone resumed a westerly track across the Northern Territory. Abigail weakened into a tropical LOW south of Borroloola but continued to traverse the Northern Territory. The estimated minimum central pressure was 965 mb. Cairns recorded sustained gale-force winds for about 1-1/2 hours, peaking at 40 kts. Daintree Village and Low Isles recorded 241 mm and 228 mm of rainfall.
The impact of Abigail in the Cairns area was minimal. There was some local flooding and trees downed at Edge Hill and in the northern suburbs. The damage at Mornington Island was considerably higher; numerous trees were downed, many buildings experienced roof damage, electrical services and floor coverings were damaged due to water entry, plus much damage was caused by flying debris. As the remnants of Abigail moved westward across the Northern Territory, heavy rains compounded the misery in the already waterlogged region. These rains added to the flood waters in the Gulf country and the Victoria River district, prolonging the pre-existing disruption to communities in the region.

4 - 15 March 2003 - Erica. Erica started 3PM March 4 as Cat 1 Cyclone. Tropical Cyclone Erica intensified March 5 to a Category 2 cyclone, and at 4pm was in the Coral Sea about 860km east of Townsville and 680km east-northeast of Proserpine. It moved slowly southeast further away from the Australian mainland in the general direction of New Caledonia. Then north towards Fidji. On 11 March it intensified to Category 5. It was located almost 1500 kilometes to the east - north east of Cairns.