Havana Spared as Ike Batters Cuba
Only hours before hurricane Ike makes another landing in Cuba, it now appears that Havana and its many historic buildings will be spared from the worst of the storm that has brought devastating consequences to the island’s housing, agriculture and other economic infrastructure.
Nonetheless, tropical storm force winds and heavy rains could still cause considerable damage in the capital of 2.3 million inhabitants.
The latest report from the Cuban Meteorology Center, issued at 6:00 a.m. Tuesday states that Ike, now a category 1 hurricane, is expected to follow a course similar to that of Gustav in its passing through western Cuba.
Currently churning in the sea south of Havana Province and just north of Isla de la Juventud it is expected to hit land in the fear east of Pinar del Rio province around 35-50 miles southeast of Havana city in the late morning.
As I write at dawn Tuesday, the howling winds are strong and the sea below very rough, but so far without any coastal flooding. The electricity in the city was turned off last night as a preventive measure. The piped gas is still on at our home but could be also turned off at any moment. My phone line is still operating.
While we had planned to evacuate to a friend’s home further inland if the storm was going to cause a direct hit on the city, the path taken by Ike and the downgrading of its force made my family decide to weather the storm at our third floor apartment in a well constructed building.
As is typical in Cuba, the atmosphere of sharing news, concerns, food and even a shot of rum with neighbors keeps you from feeling isolated in these difficult times.
Ike is the second hurricane to hit Cuba in the last 10 days. First Gustav, a category 4 storm, caused severe damage in Pinar del Rio and Isla de la Juventud with over 90,000 homes totally or partially damaged.
Now, while the massive recovery effort was underway to gradually mend the damage caused by Gustav, Ike has left a tremendous wake of destruction from its passing through the eastern provinces of Holguin, Las Tunas and Camaguey.
The hurricane then reentered the Caribbean Sea south of Ciego de Avila province and proceeded on a west-northwesterly route heading for a new landing Tuesday close to where Gustav entered. The tropical cyclone is now a category 1 hurricane; down from the category 4 status it had when it first entered northeastern Cuba in Holguin.
In 2002, a similar occurrence took place in Pinar del Rio when in a 10-day period hurricanes Lily and Isidore struck in the western part of the province, although neither had the intensity of Gustav.