On 24 December 1971, Tropical Cyclone Althea swept across Townsville resulting in three deaths. On Magnetic Island 90 per cent of the houses were damaged or destroyed. Two tornadoes damaged trees and houses at Bowen. There was major flooding in Burdekin, resulting in a storm surge measuring 2.9 m in the Townsville Harbour and a 3.66 m storm surge north at Toolakea. Although the Toolakea storm surge occurred at low tide, the surge and large waves caused extensive damage along the Strand and at Cape Pallarenda.
The Insurance Council of Australia estimated the 1971 damage at $25 million, with the 2012 estimated normalised cost of $648 million.