A persisting cloud cluster was initially detected on satellite photographs near the Solomon Islands on 12 February 1979. The system moved westward and became a tropical depression near Samarai on 14 February 1979. The low moved to the Gulf of Carpentaria where the track became very erratic. The system intensified over the Gulf and attained cyclone strength by 0000 UTC 25 February 1979.
The track of the system after 0000 UTC 25 February 1979 is depicted below. The cyclone crossed the coast 30 km north-northwest of Bing Bong homestead at 0400 UTC 26 February 1979 with an estimated central pressure of 955 hPa, the lowest pressure during its life cycle. The lowest recorded pressure was 993.3 hPa at Centre Island (in the Sir Edward Pellew Group ) at 0000 UTC 26 February 1979.
The NOAA research aircraft investigated the cyclone on a single mission as the cyclone was making landfall. At the point of closest approach at 0440 UTC 26 February 1979 the maximum wind encountered was 169 km/h at an altitude of 540 m, 37 km northeast of the centre of the eye. The eye diameter was 37 km.
The highest 24-hour rainfall totals were 79 mm at McArthur River on 27 February and 74.2 mm at Centre Island on 26 February. An unofficial report from Nathan River estimated 250 mm on 26 February. The highest cumulative total for the period 20 to 28 February 1979 was 197.8 mm at Centre Island.
Coastal and riverside stations in the southwest Gulf of Carpentaria reported unusually high tides. Seas were very rough at Bing Bong where the water level was estimated to have risen two metres above the spring high tide mark. A tide gauge on Groote Eylandt was washed away.
Thousands of dollars worth of structural damage to station properties, together with the felling of extensive tracts of forest, were reported in the southwest Gulf of Carpentaria and Roper-McArthur district. A light aircraft stranded on North Island, Sir Edward Pellew Group , was destroyed.