Cyclone Ian formed quickly and affected the Tonga Islands and Fiji in the South Pacific Ocean in early January, 2014. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image at 01:25 UTC on January 6 (8:25 p.m. January 5 EST). At that time the system showed tightly wrapped low-level circulation at the center, with the strongest thunderstorms flaring up along the northern quadrant of the storm.
On January 6 at 1500 UTC (10 a.m. EST), Ian's maximum sustained winds were near 40 mph (62 km/h). Tropical Cyclone Ian was centered near 19.0 south latitude and 175.6 west longitude, about 351 nautical miles east of Suva, Fiji. By January 9, the storm intensified to hurricane strength, with maximum sustained winds reported at 97.8 mph (157.4 km/h). Tropical storm force winds extended as far as 93 mi (148 km) from the center, with hurricane force winds extending 23 mi (27 km) from the center.
On January 10, Tropical Cyclone Ian lashed the Tonga Islands with strong hurricane force winds – at 900 UTC (4 a.m. EST) the maximum sustained winds were near 104 mph (167 km/h). On January 11 the storm reached its peak strength – 144 mph (232 km/h) or a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Affected by wind shear, the storm began to weaken, and by January 13 the Ian had dissipated over the South Pacific Ocean.
At least one death has been blamed on the storm and damage to homes appears to be widespread. According to Pacific Island News Association (PINA) an emergency response team from the British aid group Oxfam reported that the outer islands of Foa, Ha'ano and Mo'unga'one in the Ha'apai Islands chain had been 90 percent destroyed. Pangai, the capital of Ha'apai, suffered about 80 percent damage. Most of the homes on Ha’apai rely on rooftop collection systems for drinking water, and the lack of water and sanitation systems in the wake of the storm bring worries of potential widespread illness in the days to come.