On Sunday, March 30, 2014 the outlook appeared grim for cities in northwestern Madagascar. Tropical cyclone Hellen spun offshore, gaining strength with surprising rapidity and with a track destined to bring it ashore. The day started with the storm as the equivalent of a Category 2 storm with winds of 100 mph (170 km/h). Twelve hours later, winds peaked at 150 mph (240 km/h) making it a strong Category 4 storm.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image of Cyclone Hellen at 7:20 UTC on March 30 in the middle of the storm’s rapid intensification. The storm had a distinct open eye and a classic tight circular shape. Its outer bands were already over northwestern Madagascar.
According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, the Regional Specialized Meteorological Center (a branch of the French meteorology agency, Meteo France) warned residents to prepare for a “worst case scenario”. The March 30 warning also stated that Hellen was likely to be one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever seen over the Northern Channel since 1967. Fortunately, Hellen weakened substantially shortly before making landfall in the Boeny region of northwestern Madagascar on March 31, minimizing damage there. By April 1, the storm had dissipated.
Prior to passing over Madagascar, the nascent Hellen struck the Comoros, an island nation situation at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel. There the strong winds and rain caused damage to houses and infrastructure. According to Relief Web, over 7,800 people were displaced on Anjouan, the poorest island in Comoros, with about 720 houses damaged and 180 destroyed. In Madagascar, 919 people were reported displaced, with over 170 houses destroyed. Over 3,900 ha of rice fields have been inundated.