Hurricane Ian: Cuba suffers complete blackout after storm, Florida on high alert
Cuba, which has been experiencing regular power outages recently and has been grappling with an economic crisis, was pounded by Hurricane Ian. As Hurricane Ian nears Florida, locals are frantically preparing for potentially fatal tide waves, floods, and winds. The region could see its first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921.
Hurricane Ian knocked out power across all of Cuba and devastated some of the country’s most important tobacco farms when it slammed into the island’s western tip as a major hurricane Tuesday.
Residents in Florida are anxiously bracing for life-threatening tidal surges, floods and winds as Hurricane Ian approaches. The storm has already thrashed western Cuba and is expected to intensify before it makes landfall in Florida. The Tampa Bay region, which is home to more than three million people, is among the most vulnerable places in the US for severe flooding.
The region could see its first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921. The 11 million citizens of Cuba will gradually have service restored, according to a statement from the Electric Union of Cuba. About 1 million people in Cuba's western regions first lost power, but eventually the entire grid failed.
Ian hit a Cuba that has been struggling with an economic crisis and has faced frequent power outages in recent months. It made landfall as a Category 3 storm on the island’s western end, devastating Pinar del Río province, where much of the tobacco used for Cuba’s iconic cigars is grown.
Tens of thousands of people were evacuated and others fled the area ahead of the arrival of Ian, which caused flooding, damaged houses and blew toppled trees. Although there had not yet been any reports of casualties as of Tuesday night, authorities were still evaluating the damage. One of Cuba's most significant tobacco plantations, located near La Robaina, was destroyed by Ian's winds.
Cuban President Miguel Daz-Canel reportedly visited the damaged area, according to state media. The city of Pinar del Ro saw the brunt of the hurricane for an hour and a half, according to Cuba's Meteorology Institute. In addition to evacuating 50,000 people and establishing 55 shelters, authorities took action to save crops, particularly tobacco.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Cuba suffered “significant wind and storm surge impacts” when the hurricane struck with top sustained winds of 125 mph (205 kph).
Over the warm Gulf of Mexico, Ian was predicted to intensify further and approach the southwest coast of Florida, where 2.5 million people were urged to flee, with maximum winds of 130 mph (209 kph). As the storm’s center moved into the Gulf, scenes of destruction emerged in Cuba. Authorities were still assessing the damage in its world-famous tobacco belt.