The San Juan Daily Star
Hurricane Ian brings 125 mph winds, heavy rain to Cuba as Florida braces for impact
By Camila Acosta and Oscar López
Hurricane Ian lashed Cuba on Tuesday with heavy rain and winds of up to 125 mph, knocking out power and causing the evacuation of about 50,000 Cubans, according to authorities.
“Another dawn without rest,” Cuba’s president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, wrote on Twitter, noting that government officials were mobilizing to help in the aftermath of the Category 3 storm. Ian began moving off the island nation around midday.
The storm causes power outages that plunged parts of Havana into darkness. Despite heavy rains and strong winds, some people were out seeking food and basic supplies Tuesday, lining up under sheltering overhangs to buy a piece of chicken or a bottle of oil.
Cuba’s western provinces, where the hurricane made landfall, have been the hardest hit. Videos shared on social media from the town of Coloma, along Cuba’s southern coast, showed people inside their homes with water up to their knees.
The hurricane comes as Cuba continues to recover from one of the worst periods of financial hardship in the country’s history, with the nation’s ailing infrastructure already producing widespread power blackouts. The financial misery, along with ongoing political repression, sparked one of the largest protest movements in decades last year.
The island has long borne the brunt of Atlantic storms. In 2008, two hurricanes, Gustav and Ike, blasted across the country, leaving at least seven people dead, damaging crops and buildings, and setting off more than 150 landslides in Havana.
On Tuesday, flooding in western Cuba damaged houses and tobacco crops, an important agricultural industry. In the municipality of San Luis, north of the city of Santiago de Cuba, one of the largest tobacco growing areas had been decimated.
Thousands of families were evacuated, and widespread power outages were reported in the western city of Pinar del Río. Tourists in places like Varadero, a popular beach resort in the country’s north, were relocated to more secure locations.
Official state media in northern Matanzas province said that 76 shelters had been opened in the region and that they expected the evacuation of some 17,000 people.
Local authorities predicted that the center of the hurricane would leave the island later Tuesday, before moving into the Gulf of Mexico and then on toward Florida.