Introduction Tropical cyclone (TC) Yasi, thought to be the largest and most severe cyclone to cross the Queensland coast since 1918, made landfall on the southern tropical coast near Mission Beach and continued to track westward across Northern Queensland on February 3, 2011. The warning and response model (WRM) suggests that situational factors, personal characteristics, and social contextual variables influence the degree of threat perceived and protective actions taken. Aim The aim of this study was to examine preparation for this impending natural disaster by residents of the affected regions, and to identify the residents' resource losses and symptoms of psychological distress following TC Yasi. Methods A cross-sectional survey was conducted 6-12 months after the cyclone using an adapted tool designed to measure preparedness, loss and psychosocial distress. Four hundred and thirty-three responses were received. Statistical analysis was conducted using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). Categorical characteristics were described using sample size and percentages. Results Almost all respondents perceived the cyclone warning as serious or very serious, and more than a third started preparing for the cyclone at least three days before it reached landfall. Overall, 115 (26.7%) respondents reported moderate and 59 (13.7%) reported major property damage; 72 (17.1%) reported a moderate and 49 (11.6%) reported a major change in their feeling of whether they have control over their life; 55 (13.1%) reported a major change in their motivation of getting things done; and 33 (7.9%) reported a major change in their perception of feeling valuable to others. Overall, 142 (34.1%) documented at least one of five symptoms of acute distress. Conclusion The findings document the experiences of Australians who have lived through tropical cyclone Yasi. The results support the WRM theory which proposes that people with previous experience take threatened disasters seriously.