History of Townsville Meteorological Office


Significant Dates

3 - 4 March 1867 The settlement of Townsville was not three years old when the inhabitants experienced their first cyclone. The cyclone "raged for two days and few structures withstood the onslaught"

20 February 1870 A cyclone which wreaked havoc in Townsville for at least 12 hours was described as "terrific". Nearly every house in town suffered at least some damage, with many homes completely unroofed.

January 1871 Meteorological Observations commenced at Pilot Station, Townsville Port.

26 - 27 January 1896 Cyclone "Sigma" caused massive destruction to Townsville and surrounding areas. 18 lives were lost, most of whom were killed when Ross River broke it banks flooding parts of the town to a depth of two metres.

9 March 1903 Cyclone "Leonta" - described as "surpassing cyclone "Sigma" in violence" and "caused more destruction than ever experienced in Townsville".

January 1940 Observations transferred to Townsville Airport

January 1940 Townsville Met Watch Office opened at Townsville Aerodrome

July 1940 All staff in the Bureau transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force Directorate of Meteorological Services for the duration of hostilities.

18 February 1940 Citizens of Townsville spend another anxious night sitting out a tropical cyclone. The greatest damage occurred on The Strand where the mountainous seas left a trail of wreckage.

1946 saw the Bureau reverting to civilian status and control returned to the then Department of Interior.

1955 Townsville Radio Aids Building opened on RAAF Base

6 March 1956 Cyclone "Agnes" the first Australian Tropical Cyclone tracked on radar. Many houses suffered roof damage with at least 20 homes left uninhabitable.

24 December 1971 Cyclone Althea. The force of the wind caused heavy steel poles to bend, lifted houses from stumps and stripped trees of their foliage. Record wind gust of 197km/h at Townsville Airport.

February 1995 Combined Townsville Met Watch Office and Observations moved to new building. Officially opened by Ted Lindsay MP.

10 January 1998 Ex Cyclone Sid produces flooding rains. Townsville Met Office measures a record 548.8mm of rain in 24 hours. Our volunteer rainfall network showed some suburbs received over 700mm in 24 hours.

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Weather Observer Fred Soutter operates atmospheric lightning detection equipment - "Sferics". Townsville 1957. TC Althea produced wind gusts strong enough to bend steel poles.
Many houses were damaged beyond repair by TC Althea, xmas eve 1971. Townsville Radio Aids Building 1955-1995
Weather Observer George Khan operates the 277F windfinding radar equipment in Townsville, 1957. Townsville Met Office Building 1995-present