40 years ago today Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin leaving devastation and destruction across the top end in its wake.
Darwin goes on cyclone watch every wet season but on Christmas Eve in 1974 the cyclone was a Category 3 Hurricane (SSHS), Category 4 Severe Tropical Cyclone (BOM).
By 1974 Darwin was home to about 48,000 people and the homes just weren’t built to withstand a cyclone. Early in December 1974 Cyclone Selma had visited Darwin but didn’t really amount to much and so most people believed the same thing would happen with Cyclone Tracy.
A website has been created which explains about “Cyclone Tracy” and explains that Tracy formally came into existence at 10 AM on 21 December 1974, when it lay well to Darwin’s north. On 24 December 1974 Tracy rounded Cape Fourcroy, Bathurst Island’s western tip, and then moved along an east-south-easterly course toward Darwin.
The Cyclone passed over Darwin destroying much of the city and killing 65 people, 49 people on land and 16 at sea.
After the Cyclone the rebuilding began. Many women and children were evacuated to other cities in Australia whilst this happened and it’s said some returned and some did not.
At the Museum and Art Gallery of the Top End there is a display dedicated to the Cyclone. It has accounts from people who lived in Darwin when it hit, shows photos of before and after and also has a room where you can step inside and “experience” the sound of the Cyclone. The sound is absolutely terrifying and I understand is nowhere as loud as at it actually was. The Cyclone lasted for hours and just a minute or so in the room is more than enough.
One of our friends was a small child during the Cyclone and has told us about what happened on Christmas Eve in 1974. It’s impossible to imagine what that night was like for the people living in Darwin or what rebuilding the city was like.
We went to the premiere of a documentary called Blown Away which was created for the ABC a few weeks ago. The documentary was very well made and featured stories from people who lived in Darwin when the Cyclone hit. I was glad to be able to attend the premiere during the commemorative events that the city has been holding to mark the 40th anniversary of Cyclone Tracy.
There are lots of websites featuring photographs and videos about the Cyclone and I will list them below so you can take a look:
Photo mapping the path of Cyclone Tracy from Northauschasers.com Facebook page