How Cuba Prepares for a Hurricane

There is a well-developed three stages emergency system in Cuba that prepares the population for a hurricane. Trees are secured, wireless antennas are dismantled and even dolphins from dolphin shows are evacuated. And of course the inhabitants, as well as all tourists in endangered regions.

The great discipline in implementing the measures means that the casualties caused by a hurricane in Cuba are extremely low compared with other countries. Unfortunately, damage to buildings and infrastructure cannot really be reduced, but what can be done is done.

Hurrikan Irma, Malecon, Havanna, Kuba

Hurricane Irma, Malecon, Havana, Cuba

In addition, there is always information on television about the state of the hurricane, this has almost obsessive tendencies!

When is the Hurricane Season?

The hurricane season is officially from June 1st to November 30th, that is, actually, half of the year. The months August to October are the months with the highest hurricane probability. That means on the other hand: there are very rarely problems with hurricanes at all, so that you won’t have to change your booking. I was at least 10 times in Cuba during the hurricane time (in September, the hurricane high season, is our summer school) and only one time, with Irma 2017, that was problematic. And in the end, everything went well. Only in the restaurants there were fewer products, e.g. no eggs – the chickens were all evacuated or dead.

Hurrikan Irma, Malecon, Havanna, Kuba

Hurricane Irma, Malecon, Havana, Cuba

So, the probability of really getting into trouble with a hurricane is small. The probability of being affected by an ATC strike is much higher.
So hurricanes shouldn’t affect your travel plans, rather the weather in general and the sunshine duration – which is really a thing: in winter, Cuba is muuuuch brighter then here more in the north, like Berlin, 3-4 hours more daylight!!!

Nevertheless: in 22 years 26 hurricanes have swept over Cuba, only in 5 years the islanders had peace: 1997, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015. 21 of the 26 hurricanes crossed the island from August to October. So if you are a careful person, avoid these months. And anyway: from November through our whole winter is the best travel time for Cuba anyway, because the red-hot temperatures with high humidity are over.

What does a Hurricane Mean for us Tourists?

Foto: Hurrikan Irma flutet den MalecónProviders normally agree to allow rebooking. And they have to – at least in Germany – by law. Look up the rules for your country, but I guess it is mostly the same.
This means, if you fly to Cuba and there are news about a hurricane, inform yourself if flights go, if your hotel still stands and if there is an infrastructure for the supply of tourists, e.g. if there is water and electricity. Short explanation: Electricity is turned off for safety reasons, so that the water on the street or loose cables do not hurt anyone. The water supply often has problems because the Cuban cisterns are in the basement – and they quickly run full of rain or sea water. And that contamines the drinking water – and apart from that it can no longer be pumped up into the rooms and apartments due to a lack of electricity. So inquire about your trip, because the big travel companies have possibilities to change your booking.

For the rights of German travellers, please read here!

Why Hurricanes Always Occur in Cuba

Here you’ll find a good National Geographic video explaining how hurricanes are created and why it hits Cuba again and again:

Cyclone, Typhoon, Hurricane

These are all three terms for the same phenomenon. So anyone who has experienced a typhoon also knows what a hurricane feels like. Hurricane comes from the Taino language and one theory says that the term comes from the god Hun-r-akan, who is related to heavy storms.

The same phenomenon, but different in geographical terms:

  • only as a storm in America is called a hurricane
  • Cyclones occur in the Indian Ocean or southern Pacific Ocean
  • Typhoons are storms that devastate East and Southeast Asia or the northwestern part of the Pacific Ocean.
  • Lastly, there is the artificial term Medican, which was chosen for such storms in the Mediterranean Sea.

Irma, the Last Great Hurricane

Hurricane Irma ranged between strengths 4 and 5 (the highest hurricane level is 5), fortunately lost some strength over Cuba and only hit the west of the island with a strength of 3. This is not untypical, because over land a hurricane tends to lose strength.

Cubas East Coast

Foto: das vom Hurrikan zerstörte Denkmal an der Avenida G

Das Denkmal an der Avenida de los Presidentes wurde nach Irma vollständig abgebaut, da die Schäden zu gewaltig waren.

Hurricane Irma, like the other hurricanes following Irma, started on the west coast of Africa. The continuously warm water – over 26 degrees from Africa to Florida – provided ideal conditions for the formation of hurricanes, vaporizing water condensed in the atmosphere and created the hurricane-typical weather conditions that is essential for developing into hurricanes.

Coming from Africa, Irma devastated mainly the east coast, also this time the storm arrived with the maximal strength of 5 at the east coast and so was able to spread big destruction. By the way, it was the first hurricane since 1932 whose eye touched Cuba and also one of the largest hurricanes ever measured.

Irma moved along the entire north coast of Cuba – if we consider how narrow the island is, then “the north” means: a lot of people were affected.

Current Information About Hurricanes in the Region

If you want to inform yourself about the current situation, you’ll find a good overview on the website of the National Hurricane Center.

I keep my fingers crossed for all of you that this hurricane season will not be another disaster!

Saludos and all the best,
Dietmar

PS: I’m not a hurricane expert and just want to give everyone here a general overview because I think it’s important. That means: if you find errors in the article, write or comment – I will include the changes.

Foto: riesige Hurrikan-Wellen brechen sich am Leuchtturm von Havanna


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