Australians brace for Hurricane (Cyclone) Grant, likely to hit Christmas Day


A towel dries on an Australian "Hills Hoist." The clothes line, invented in Australia in 1946, is a cultural icon and rumored to be the only thing left working at a Darwin home after Cyclone Tracy struck.


Ian Waldie

Many residents of Darwin, in Australia's Northern Territory (NT), are canceling Christmas dinner, having been advised that a hurricane — called a cyclone Down Under — will make landfall around p.m. on Dec. 25.

Those old enough to remember Cyclone Tracy, which 37 years ago to the day devastated the NT capital, Darwin, killing 65 people, are likely taking evasive action.

Cyclone Grant was expected to approach the Australian coast on the day after Christmas, also known here as Boxing Day after the English tradition derived from boxing presents for the poor.

News.com.au quotes weather bureau regional chief Andrew Tupper as saying the storm will pass to the east of the capital, Darwin, but will be felt strongly there. The Australian quotes him as saying "reasonably wild conditions" were expected.

Wind blasts of 80 miles per hour were expected to hit the Tiwi Islands to the north of Darwin, home to small communities, according to the Australian.

Tracy, which hit Christmas Eve 1974, resulted in renewed public respect for weather warnings, especially at this time of year, as well as better home construction techniques, according to Australia's ABC News.

The ABC quotes Darwin resident Stephanie Brown — whose baby sister was killed as her family sheltered under a mattress as the roof of their house was torn off by Tracy — as saying:

"We have a really solid house. I feel quite confident that it is a safe building and we've got enough room inside if we have to move inside," she said. "I never take cyclones lightly."

However, they do breed 'em tough in Australia's so-called "Top End."

Writes the ABC:

Brown says any potential cyclone will not spoil her plan to host 30 people at her Darwin house this Christmas.

"Mum and my sister get pretty nervous. I think we all get nervous about it but forewarned is forearmed," she said. "We know what we have to do and we do it.

"The last scare we had my sister and my mum came and stayed with us and we had a party, cooked some really good food, drank good wine."