NASA image created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data obtained courtesy of the MODIS Rapid Response team.
Tropical Cyclone Vaianu was threading its way through the Tonga Islands on February 13, 2006, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite captured this image at 1:45 UTC (1:45 p.m. local time). At this time, Vaianu was heading south through the chain of islands, knocking out electricity in many areas, as well as flattening crops such as bananas, mangos, and breadfruit trees. Flooding in low-lying areas shut down the capital, Nuku'alofa, for two days as stores barricaded their doors and windows to protect them from battering winds. The cyclone had peak sustained winds of around 140 kilometers per hour (85 miles per hour), but the storm center where these peak winds were observed was well away from the Tonga and Fiji Islands.
The large green island just visible under clouds in the northwestern corner (top left) of this image is Viti Levu, one of two large islands in the Fiji Islands. Vanua Levu is barely visible to the north and east of Viti Levu. The Tonga Islands all lie to the east of Fiji and are covered under the spiralling cloud formation of Cyclone Vaianu.
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This image originally appeared on the Earth Observatory. Click here to view the full, original record.