Cyclone Nathan & Cyclone Categories Explained

19 March 2015

UPDATE: Fri 20 March - Tropical Cyclone Nathan made landfall between Cape Melville and Cape Flattery shortly before 4:00am AEST as a category four system.

Nathan has since been downgraded to a category three and expected to keep weakening to a category one by late this afternoon as it heads towards the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Rainfall is expected in the region to continue into Saturday with another 250-350mm of rain with select locations expecting  up to 450mm of rain.

Andrew Mostynfrom the Bureau of Meteorology said "It will be well offshore from  the Western Peninsula. At that point it will be heading in a west north west direction towards the top end. Places such as Gove and that are going to be in the line of sight from Nathan there but in terms of Queensland we've seen the last of it once we get through this next 36 hour period as it does pass into the Gulf waters."

Cairns International Airport Update

At this stage all flights are scheduled as per normal operation and the airport remains open. Only one mainline Jetstar flight has been cancelled (JQ928 Brisbane-Cairns and return flight JQ931 Cairns-Brisbane) with all West Wing Aviation flights cancelled for today. For more information please contact your travel consultant on 133 133.


Cyclone Nathan's second assault on far north Queensland is expected to occur tomorrow (Friday) when it crosses the coast between Cape Melville and Cape Tribulation.  By the time it makes landfall the cyclone is expected to be upgraded to a category four cyclone bringing heavy rain and winds up to 260 kmph.

A cyclone watch is in place between Coen and Cardwell, extending inland to areas including Kalinga and Laura.

Cairns and Port Douglas are expected to receive  considerable rain and gusty winds but should not be too seriously impacted.

It is expected that reef and diving tours in the area will be cancelled and access to some of the islands will be restricted.

People in the area are advised to follow the direction of local authorities and monitor the local news stations and radio.

Heavy rainfall and flash flooding is expected as water levels rise coinciding with the highest tide of the year betweem Port Douglas and Innisfail.

 Projected path of Cyclone Nathan - Image Source: Bureau of Meteorology

Cairns International Airport

At this stage all flights are scheduled as per normal operation and the airport remains open. This is subject to change Friday once Cyclone Nathan has actually passed. For more information please contact your travel consultant.

Tropical Cyclone Category System

With so many cyclones occurring lately, the below reference guide gives an understanding of how they are categorised:

Category Five

  • Extremely dangerous with widespread destruction
  • Very destructive winds - typical gusts over flat land of more than 280kph

Category Four

  • Significant building damage likely, many caravans will be blown away or destroyed
  • Dangerous airborne debris and widespread power failures
  • Very destructive winds - typical gusts over flat land of 225-279kph

Category Three

  • Some damage to roofs and buildings, some caravans will be destroyed
  • Power failures likely
  • Very destructive winds - typical gusts over flat land of 165-224kph

Category Two

  • Minor house damage, significant damage to signs, trees and caravans
  • Heavy damage to some crops, risk of power failure, small craft may break moorings
  • Destructive winds - typical gusts over flat land of 125-164kph

Category One

  • Damage to some crops, trees and caravans; crafts may drag moorings
  • Gales - typical gusts over flat land of 90-125kph

For further information please contact your local travel consultant or call 133 133.

Jason Dutton-Smith

I’m a passionate traveller and a first class nomad wannabe. I have a love for the written word and enjoy sharing stories that inspire travel. I like ordinary but love extraordinary. I’ll dance and sing karaoke to anything 80’s, will drink hot tea even if 40 degrees, love food and have a wicked sweet tooth. Architecture excites me, the window seat thrills me and anything aviation enamours me. I’m a perpetual dreamer who lives by Saint Augustine’s wise words – “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”. My intention is to read War and Peace!