24 December

Cyclone Tracy was a tropical cyclone that devastated the city of Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, 1974.

It is the most compact cyclone or equivalent-strength hurricane on record in the Australian basin, with gale-force winds extending only 48 kilometres (30 mi) from the centre and was the most compact system worldwide until 2008 when Tropical Storm Marco of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season broke the record, with gale-force winds extending only 19 kilometres (12 mi) from the centre. After forming over the Arafura Sea, the storm moved southwards and affected the city with Category 4 winds on the Australian cyclone intensity scale, while there is evidence to suggest that it had reached Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale when it made landfall.

Tracy killed 71 people, caused A$837 million in damage (1974 dollars), or approximately A$4.45 billion (2014 dollars). It destroyed more than 70 percent of Darwin’s buildings, including 80 percent of houses. Tracy left more than 41,000 out of the 47,000 inhabitants of the city homeless prior to landfall and required the evacuation of over 30,000 people. Most of Darwin’s population was evacuated to Adelaide, Whyalla, Alice Springs and Sydney, and many never returned to the city. After the storm passed, the city was rebuilt using more modern materials and updated building techniques. Bruce Stannard of The Age stated that Cyclone Tracy was a “disaster of the first magnitude … without parallel in Australia’s history.”