The excitement of Christmas Eve 1974 was turned into stark horror in Darwin, Australia, as the killer wind of Cyclone Tracy struck in the night and ripped the city apart.
The small, developing easterly storm had initially appeared likely to pass clear of the city but then turned towards it early on 24 December. Wind gusts reached 217 kilometres per hour (134.84 mph) before instruments failed.
The death toll was 71, and more than a thousand were injured. 90% of the buildings in the city were destroyed, and up to 25,000 of the population of 48,000 were reported to be homeless. The cyclone caused more than AUD$837 million in damage.
An army report later described the city as “looking as though it has been hit by an atom bomb”.
On 28 February 1975 the Whitlam government established the Darwin Reconstruction Commission, which effectively rebuilt the city within three years.
Cyclone Tracy inspired the 1975 song Santa Never Made It into Darwin by Bill and Boyd, which raised money for the relief and reconstruction efforts.
In 1983, Hoodoo Gurus released Tojo, a song comparing the Japanese bombing of Darwin under the command of Hideki Tojo during World War II to the damage done by Cyclone Tracy. While the much-feared Japanese invasion never happened, the cyclone was virtually ignored and destroyed the city.
A 1986 miniseries by the Australian Nine Network starring Chris Haywood and Tracy Mann dramatised the events of Cyclone Tracy.