Cliff developed shortly after the formation of cyclone Eddie .
By 9 February the initial low had formed northeast of Vanua Lava and developed to tropical cyclone intensity during that day. Cliff generally moved to the southwest until 14 February, though there were variations from this direction on 10 February when it moved near Vanuatu. The cyclone reached peak intensity on 12 February when the central pressure was estimated to be 975 hPa. During 14 February Cliff moved firstly to the west and then to the west-northwest, finally crossing the coast near Bundaberg. Its central pressure on landfall was 990 hPa. Cliff 's overall movement was probably due to the presence of a pronounced trough in the upper-easterly flow over the Pacific Ocean east of Queensland.
Until the morning of 13 February, the evolution of the cloud pattern was unexceptional with increasing organisation and with the central dense overcast becoming larger. However the central dense overcast then decreased and the overall cloud signature degenerated. In this weakening phase a clear eye appeared for the first time. As the cyclone neared land, the cloud pattern was noteworthy for the degree of dissipation and disorganisation.
The cyclone passed over New Caledonia as it was nearing peak intensity, but the strongest wind reported from the island was only 92 km/h. No surface reports were then available until Cliff approached the south coast of Queensland. At that time strong gales were common and there was a ship report of 110 km/h.
Cane crops around Bundaberg were damaged by the wind and there was also some damage to several houses in the Moreton district. Rainfall and flooding were minor, but there was some marine inundation around Hervey Bay. Beach erosion occurred from Bundaberg to Coolangatta, particularly on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts. One man was drowned off the beach on the Gold Coast.