Raging over the southern Pacific Ocean, Tropical Cyclone Yasi easily spanned the distance between the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu on January 30, 2011. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image at 10:20 a.m. on January 31 in New Caledonia time (23:20 on January 30 UTC). Although lacking a discernible eye, Yasi sports the spiral shape characteristic of powerful storms.
At midnight on February 1 local time (15:00 on January 31 UTC), the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) reported that Yasi was roughly 875 nautical miles (1,620 kilometers) east-northeast of Cairns, Queensland, Australia. Yasi had maximum sustained winds of 90 knots (165 kilometers per hour) and gusts up to 110 knots (205 kilometers per hour). The JTWC forecast that favorable conditions would intensify the storm, which could peak at 125 knots (230 kilometers per hour). Yasi had the potential to make landfall in Cairns with wind speeds in excess of 100 knots (185 kilometers per hour). This storm followed on the heels of widespread flooding in eastern Australia, prompted partly by Tropical Storm Tasha.