Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC
Cyclone Heta approaches the island of Niue in this true-color Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image acquired on January 6, 2004 by the Aqua satellite. The storm blew through Samoa, seen in the top center, on January 5 with 105 mile-per-hour winds, which blew down trees and knocked out communications and power. The storm intensified as it moved southeast toward Niue. At the time this image was taken, Heta’s winds reached a powerful 150 miles per hour with gusts up to 184 miles per hour.
When Heta hit Niue on January 7, it hit with brutal force. Half of Alofi’s (the capital city) commercial sector was wiped out, taking with it the island’s communication and power sources, as well as many stores of fresh water. In the wake of the winds, huge waves hit the island and washed away many of the islander’s homes, and destroyed a hospital. The waves also caused a number of injuries and deaths.
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