Severe weather

Whether it is cyclones, snowstorms or tornadoes, severe weather can have an impact on your travel overseas. Read the country travel advice of your destination before travelling. If you intend to travel to an area that has been recently affected by severe weather, you should seek information from local tour operators, hotels and airlines on the condition of infrastructure and facilities in the area.

Cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons

Depending on their location and strength, there are various terms by which tropical cyclones are known, such as hurricane (in North America), typhoon (in Asia), tropical storm, cyclonic storm and tropical depression.

Tropical cyclones often produce winds in excess of 200 km/h, causing extensive damage to property and turning debris into dangerous missiles. They can also bring flooding rains and storm tides which cause further damage to property and increase the risk of drowning. Cyclones can cause huge seas, putting vessels in danger both in harbour and out at sea. Most deaths from cyclones occur as a result of drowning, collapsed buildings, mudslides or flying debris, which becomes lethal in high winds.

The following table provides a guide to cyclone seasons around the world (note that on some occasions, a cyclone may occur outside the normal season):

Region Season Start Season End
North-west Pacific April January
South Indian October May
North-east Pacific May November
North Atlantic June November
South-west Pacific October May
North Indian April December

As demonstrated by hurricanes Sandy in 2012, Katrina and Wilma in 2005, Cyclone Larry in 2006, Cyclone Nargis in 2008, and Typhoon Bopha in 2012, the results of severe weather conditions caused by a cyclone can be catastrophic with loss of life and significant damage to communication, transport and other infrastructure.

The precise path and strength of a cyclone are difficult to predict and can change quickly. A cyclone or the threat of one can prompt the closure of airports and roads by local authorities, making evacuation difficult or impossible. In an emergency, the Australian Government's ability to provide consular assistance may be severely limited.

If a cyclone approaches

In the event of an approaching cyclone, you should identify your local shelter. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. You should contact your airline for the latest flight information. The cyclone could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe cyclone may not be available to all who may choose to stay. You should review and follow hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

Closely monitor the local media for weather updates and information about preparations being made and follow the advice of local authorities. Information on tropical cyclones or other severe weather conditions is available from the World Meteorological Organization as well as the following organisations:

Region Agency
North Atlantic National Hurricane Center
North-east Pacific National Hurricane Center
Caribbean Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency
North Central Pacific Central Pacific Hurricane Center
North-west Pacific Japan Meteorological Agency
North Indian Indian Meteorological Department
South-west Indian Meteo-France
South and South-west Pacific The Fiji Meteorological Service
Meteorological Service of New Zealand
Papua New Guinea National Weather Service
Meteo-France in French Polynesia
Australian Bureau of Meteorology
Joint Typhoon Warning Center
South-east Indian Australian Bureau of Meteorology

Tornadoes

Tornadoes are common in North America and especially in the United States and Canada. In the United States. tornadoes occur most frequently east of the Rocky Mountains during the spring and summer months. In an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported nationwide. In the southern states, peak tornado occurrence is from March to May, while peak months in the northern states are during the summer.

In Canada, tornadoes tend to form across the Prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

To learn more about tornadoes and what you should do during, and after an event, visit the website of the U.S. National Weather Service or the Canadian Weather Service.

Winter weather in Europe and North America

Thunderstorms, hail, blizzards, ice storms, high winds and heavy rain can develop quickly and threaten life and property.  Winter storms can cause delays and cancellations throughout the major airline hubs in Europe and North America.

Contact your tour operator or airline for current flight information before travelling.

To monitor weather conditions is in Europe, visit MeteoAlarm.

To monitor airport conditions in the United States, visit the Federal Aviation Administration website and in Canada, visit the Weather Network website.

Heavy rain, flooding, mudslides and landslides

Many areas of the world experience an annual wet or rainy season. During the wet season severe flooding, including flash flooding can occur, triggering mudslides and landslides and damaging buildings and infrastructure.

Before you travel, check with local sources on the condition of roads and the likely impact of rain, and avoid areas that are prone to flooding. Check to see if the area has had mudslides or landslides in the past, and educate yourself regarding local area evacuation or emergency plans.

If you find yourself in an area affected by flooding follow the advice of local authorities. Avoid walking or travelling through floodwaters or near unstable slopes and take additional health precautions such as boiling all drinking water.

Travelling to a region prone to severe weather

Before you travel

  • Register your travel and contact details with us.
  • Ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance.
  • Subscribe to the travel advice for your destination to receive free email updates each time it is reissued.

When you arrive

  • Locate the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. Carry local emergency and embassy phone numbers in your wallet and programmed into your phone.
  • Familiarise yourself with local hotel or other advice on what to do in the event of a natural disaster.

While you're there

If you are travelling to a storm-prone region during cyclone season, we recommend you have with you a supply of bottled water, some non-perishable food items, a basic first-aid kit, a battery-operated radio and a torch. Carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification, etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location.

How to reach us

In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact an embassy or high commission you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.