NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of Tropical Cyclone Ita as it bore down on Australia’s Cook Peninsula in April, 2014. About 30,000 residents of Cairns were asked to evacuate in advance of the storm, and storm surge and wind damage alerts were issued across northern Queensland.
This true-color image was acquired by Aqua’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) at 2:00 p.m. local time (0400 UTC) on April 11. About 2 hours later, according to Unisys Weather, the storm had maximum sustained winds of 144 mph (232 km/h), making it equivalent to a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
Ita later made landfall near Cape Flattery, north of Cooktown, around 9:00 p.m. local time on April 11. By 4:00 a.m. local time on April 12, meteorologists reported that the storm was moving south-southwest through the state of Queensland with sustained winds at roughly 90 mph (140 km/h).
In the days before arriving in Queensland, the tropical weather system that became Ita dumped intense rain on the Solomon Islands, leading to flash floods and landslides that killed at least 20 people and affected at least 50,000. It also brought flooding and power outages to eastern Papua New Guinea and nearby islands.
Cyclone Ita brought heavy winds and torrential rain across much of northern Queensland. No deaths were reported, but structural damage was heavy in some areas, including Cooktown, where 200 homes were affected, with 16 described as severely damaged or destroyed. Australia's ABC News reported that 90 percent of far north Queensland’s sugar cane fields were severely damaged, with canes knocked over and paddocks flooded. Tomato, banana and eggplant crops also received widespread damage.
The remnants of Cyclone Ita struck New Zealand on April 17, bringing gale-force winds and heavy rain. The Australian reported that thousands were without power, and many roads were closed due to flooding. Local news outlets reported damaging landslides had occurred, especially in the rural areas of Clarence and Ward, where entire hillsides had collapsed. Agricultural damage is expected to be high in South Island, which bore the brunt of the remnants of Ita.