Natural Disasters in Australia
Tropical cyclones (hurricanes) occur in the tropics during summer. Information on and advanced warnings of severe weather, is available from the Bureau of Meteorology's warning page or by calling the National Telephone Weather Services Directory on (+61) 1900 926 113.
National parks and forested areas of southern Australia, including some parts of major cities next to national parks and forests, can be threatened by bushfires (wildfires) in summer.
If the fire risk is extreme, parks may be closed, especially the backcountry areas, so you will need to have an alternative plan if you intend to camp or hike in parks during summer. If there is a fire in a park, it will usually be closed entirely.
Make sure any fires you light are legal and kept under control. The fire service operates a fire ban system during periods of extreme fire danger. When a fire ban is in place all outdoor fires are forbidden. Most parks will advertise a ban, and it is your responsibility to check the local fire danger levels. Fines or even gaol terms apply for lighting fires that get out of control, not to mention the feeling you may get at being responsible for the property, wildlife, and person damage that you may cause.
If you are caught in a bushfire, most fires will pass over quickly. You need to find shelter that will protect you from the smoke and radiant heat. Cover yourself with non-flammable (woollen) clothing or blankets, and reduce the skin directly exposed to the heat. If you have access to a tap gather water early, don't rely on water pressure as the fire front approaches. If your holiday goes no further than cities, major towns, and beaches, this won't really concern you.
The last major bush fire was 7th February 2011 in which more than 60 homes were destroyed in Perth, Western Australia. In February 2009, 173 people were killed in 'Black Saturday' fires in Victoria, showing how dangerous bushfires can be in Australia.
In the tropical north the 'Wet Season' occurs over the summer months of December, January and February, bringing torrential rains and frequent floods to those regions. It is not unusual for some coastal areas to be cut off for a day or two while the water recedes. It can still be a good time to visit some of the well-populated, tourist-oriented areas, and, except in unusually heavy flooding, you can still get to see the pounding waterfalls and other attractions that can make this an interesting time to visit.
Queensland was hit by major flooding in December 2010 - February 2011, in which 35 people were killed and over 200,000 people affected.
The wettest period for the south of the country is usually around the winter months of June, July, and August. There is rarely enough rain at one time to cause flooding. The capital cities are rarely, if ever, significantly affected by floods.
Australia is a very dry country with large areas of desert and large parts of the country are always in drought.
Many cities and towns have water restrictions, limiting use of water in activities like washing cars, watering gardens, or public showers. It is common to see signs in accommodation asking visitors to limit the length of their showers.