Tropical Cyclone Thelma
now a category 5 !!!
I'm Wolfgang Meike, based in Darwin, the Northern Territory of Australia. We are currently experiencing Thelma, the first Tropical Cyclone (Hurricane to American's or known as a Typhoon in other parts of the world) to reach the Northern Territory coast this season. It was declared a tropical cyclone on Monday and has been intensifying since then, from category 2 to 3 to 4 and as of 5pm Tuesday 8 December it has been declared a category 5 cyclone, with winds at the center of up to 320 km/h. The highest category is category 5. Cyclone Tracey, which struck Darwin on Christmas eve 1974 was a category 4, but it was a direct hit on Darwin, therefore being much more destructive. Thelma was skirting past Darwin, more or less parallel to the western coastline, some 165km north-west of Darwin, before turning west towards the Kimberley coastline.

Chart Track of Cyclone Thelma

Wednesday, 9 December 1998 - Darwin out of imminent Danger

Overnight, Darwin received a fair amount of rain (320mm or 13 inches in some parts), combined with some squally winds. But Thelma has continued to move westwards, away from Darwin. It looks like Darwin will no longer be affected by Thelma and Darwin has been removed from the cyclone warning. Life is back to normal, the shops and schools are open, people are going to work. But forecasters have warned that we are in for a very active cyclone season!

The power in Darwin is all back to normal. Yesterday there were 170 faults on the low voltage side and 100 faults on the high voltage side. 95% of faults were due to trees interfering with the power lines. The biggest problem were African Mahogany and Black Wattle trees. There was only one lightning strike.

Tiwi Islands cleaning up
The Bathurst Island community (Niugu) and Garden Point are save and well. There is some minor damage, but both have power, water & sewerage. Word has now been received from the caretaker and his son at Barra Base. They sheltered in the house while Thelma went past.

Thelma heading west
We cross our fingers for the communities along the Kimberley coast, where Thelma is heading to now. Tourist resorts are being evacuated.

Tuesday, 8 December 1998

The main area currently affected by the cyclone is the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin. Communications with the islands stopped at 10am today, mainly due to power outages, and were restored mid afternoon. The winds on the islands (Bathurst and Melville islands) reached just over 200 km/h. Most people on the islands were in cyclone shelters. There have been reports of fallen trees, some debris and a major building having been destroyed, but no injuries to people.

Here in Darwin, the effects of the cyclone are mainly some winds and rain. It is no heavier than a tropical storm. Rain is falling at an angle of 45 degrees, it is not yet horizontal! Since about 1pm today (8/12/98) the winds and particularly the rain have become heavier. Most of the winds are around 80 km/h, with the squalls reaching around 120 km/h, but accurate reports are difficult to obtain. Some areas have power outages (over 20 outages in the last 8 hours) and some traffic lights are out and there are some trees and branches on the roads. But everybody is calm and taking it in their stride. I have some pictures of the current situation, but they aren't very spectacular - it is difficult to get falling rain captured on a digital camera! But just click here to be taken to the photo library.

Schools have been closed (in case they have to be used as emergency shelters), many child care centres and the Northern Territory University are closed. Most of the private businesses and shops are also closed and people are at home. Supermarkets are open and are supplying plenty of batteries and canned food and there have been reports of queues at petrol stations - all just preparatory measures. There is no need to evacuate or move into cyclone shelters yet. Both Ansett and Qantas are still flying to and from the Darwin International Airport. Australia Post advised that there are no street-mail deliveries today due to the bad weather. The Darwin Bus service seems to be operating to schedule!

Road conditions are fair. There is some localised flooding, but it disappears quickly as the showers come and go. Visibility ranges from 500m down to about 15m, depending on the force of the squally showers. The recommendation from the police to stay at home is certainly a good one - it ain't much fun on the roads in this weather.

If Thelma continues on her present course, there is no danger for Darwin, nor will the winds get any stronger. BUT, cyclones are unpredictable, particularly Thelma and she could still double back on us. So we are prepared for the worst.

You can get more information (including the latest warnings and satellite images) from the Bureau of Meteorology, colour satellite images are available from the James Cook University.

I will try to keep this site up to date, but the success of my efforts will depend on the quality of the power, telephone lines and of course the level of danger generally. You can e-mail me if you have some comments or other information that you feel should be here, but I can't guarantee a speedy response

Disclaimer: The information presented on this page is what I know at the time, but there is no guarantee that it is all accurate. If you need to rely on this type of information, please check with the official channels.

Last Updated on 9/12/98 08:25 CST
By Wolfgang Meike