Photos Of Cyclones Pam, Nathan, & Olywn From Space Are More Than A Little Terrifying

For a change of pace, it's going to be a relatively warm and dry weekend for us in the Northeast United States. Personally, I can't wait for temperatures just shy of mind-numbingly cold and the end of "Warning: Falling Ice" signs. But the weather's change for the better isn't universal — thousands in the South Pacific could face serious destruction when three cyclones — Pam, Nathan, and Olywn — make landfall this weekend.

Tropical Cyclone Pam has already made landfall in Vanuatu, a small island country, slamming the capital with the strength of a Category 5 storm. About 267,000 people live in Vanuatu, across 65 islands. According to unconfirmed reports, at least 44 people have been killed by the cyclone in Penama province in the northeast of the country. With maximum winds estimated at about 165 miles per hour, there is the possibility of landslides, storm surges, and flash floods, as well as mass destruction and damage to many homes.

Meanwhile, Cyclone Nathan is slowing down, headed towards the Solomon Islands. According to the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology, there is a warning in place for gales within the next 24 hours along the coast, from Cape Flattery to Lockhart River. Unlike Pam, Nathan — pictured below — is not expected to carry such a high cost and death toll.

Cyclone Olwyn has its own version of destruction — though the storm has been downgraded to a Category 1, it hit the coast of western Australia as a Category 3 with winds of up to 87 mph. Karl Brandenburg, president of Carvarvon Shire on the Australian coast, told ABC News in Australia:

There's tree debris everywhere, there's sheets of iron, huge trees have been uprooted. There's roller doors and things have all been caved in, roof sheeting missing everywhere, couple of houses are severely damaged, I'd envisage they're just about write-offs. I never thought it would get as bad as it did, it's pretty devastating actually.

As the composite image above shows, from left to right, Cyclones Olwyn, Nathan, and Pam are not only this weekend's strongest storms, but the region's biggest hit since Typhoon Haiyan wreaked havoc in 2013. The Weather Channel said Pam would "likely be one of the worst natural disasters in the island chain's history." The Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office has issued a red alert for the entire island chain. Sune Gudnitz, head of the Pacific office at UNOCHA, told Reuters:

The immediate concern is for a very high death toll but also an enormous amount of destruction and devastation.

Gudnitz said the Vanuatu government has made emergency plans for up to 220,000 of the country's residents — almost all of the 247,000 who live on the island chain. Evacuees have been forced to stay at hotels en masse or stranded at work.

The country's capital, Port Vila (pop. 44,000), has already suffered power cuts and flooding, according to Reuters, as have several of the country's provinces. A recent study identified Port Vila as the most dangerous city in the world for exposure to natural disasters.

Images: NASA (3)