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Chronicle of hurricanes in Cuba

Hurricanes are the more devastating natural disasters occurred in Cuba during this century and in particular at the cyclone season from October to November.

However, only four got a dantesque character because of the human and material lost that it provoked. These four took place before 1959. Four years later, the Cuban government designed and passed a Measure System for Civil Defense of the country. It reduced damages of every type.
On October 20, 1926 a hurricane crossed over Isle of Pines and Havana with maximum winds of 230-250 KMS /H. It left 600 deaths and classified as the most expensive of the Cuban history by the fact that losses reached to 300 millions of dollars.

For Cubans, November 9, 1932, it is one of the fatal dates among all. That day, the worst catastrophic cyclone took place with winds of almost 250 KMS/H and the formation of storm tidal at southern waters of Camaguey, creating a huge wave of six meters of height. That day 3 033 persons went dead and prejudices reached to 40 millions dollars.

From a meteorological point of view, the most intense event, among the four big ones occurred on October 18 1944, with a combination of heavy rains with sustained gust of 262 KMS/H.
This one however, was the one that took fewer lives away at the capital of the country, since 300 people died.

From October 4 to 7, 1963, the Flora hurricane, with winds of up to 209 KMS/H flooded mountain chain of Sierra Maestra and its water hits searching a way out to the sea, caused the Cauto river a changing of its bed.

It caused death to more than one thousand farmers and indeterminate economic losses, and right from that tragic experience, the Revolutionary Government decided the creation of the Civil defense and the development of a meteorological service that up to that moment it only counted with two specialists.

On March 13, 1993 the badly called "The Century Storm" reached wind gust superior to a hurricane, and it provoked enormous losses and damaged 30 thousands houses.
It caused damage to two thousand 500 economic and social centers and the basic services of the population, it paralyzed temporarily the sugar harvest from Pinar del Río up to
Ciego de Avila and whole plantations went down with highly appreciated cultivation, such as bananas.

These atmospheric phenomena are not exclusive to Cuba, but to the whole tropical zone, since the North Atlantic region, including the Mexican Gulf and the Caribbean Sea, are classified as the fourth place in the world with respect to the formations of cyclones.
When one of them reaches sustained winds of 62 KMS/H, you are witnessing a depression of 63 to 1117 is a tropical storm if it goes over 118, it is a hurricane, although it is not an isolated point, but an extensive zone of hurricane winds up to 200 KMS around the center.

Each one receives a name to ease communication among the forecaster and people to whom messages go, so the Hurricanes Committee of the IV Regional Association of the World Organization of Meteorology elaborated lists in English, French and Spanish for several years.
A season begins with a man name and the other one with a woman and for those who receive it, need to reach a storm stage: a tropical or hurricane one. This denomination is kept meanwhile they exist, in spite of the fact they become weak and only be a tropical depression.
According to figures, Cuba has suffered 100 cyclones in this century, from which 10 have been great hurricanes.

The greatest part of cyclones in the period October-November are created at the western Caribbean Sea, at the southern part of Cuba and tend to move in courses next to the North and Northeast, so they are always a threat for the central and western provinces.
But the truth is, they are not the only ones causing problems, since the Niño stream (The Boy Stream ) creates unusual climate disorders, according to the time depending in greater or less heating of water at the sea surface, since they are warmer , they release greater quantity of energy.

This progressive movement caused in the country a great quantity of rain and strong winds and tornadoes between January, February and March of 1983 from which, specialists of the Meteorology Institute began a deeper study.

In the years, of the Niño appearance, researches shed surprising results during the rainy period, from May to October when precipitation started to behave under the historic average and its beginning is delayed.

Apart from that, polemic winter months in Cuba present heavy rains. On the contrary, experts of the National Center for the Climate, the Meteorology Institute, think that the presence of this phenomenon, La Niña (The Girl) at the Pacific Ocean is the cause of the notable reduction of rains between December and February.

At the inverse of what has happened with El Niño, or La Niña (The Boy or The Girl), the cooling of waters at the Pacific, causes very dried winters in Cuba and adjacent zones, since it inhibits the development of thick clouds with rains preceding the coming of winter fronts.

This assumed little girl, who does not have anything of an angel disappeared in May 1999 and came back in November, and at the end of December of that same year reached the strong event phase, something that only occurred in three occasions through the last 110 years.
In response to the climate fund conditions in a great scale, established by the La Niña Event, months of period of little rain from 1998 - 1999 were characterized by great contrasts.
Temperatures from January to April constituted the warmest since 1951 and there was a moment in which it ascended to 38.8 grades Celsius, but after a normal February, March behaved as one of the coldest ones since 1981.

In December 1999, there was a deficit of rains that turned the most important one since 1941, which brought about a worsening of the draught impact in the already affected zones.
If Cubans could move the archipelago farther than parallels and meridians that keep it at the Caribbean Sea, it is probable we could escape of the terrible passion cyclones and draughts feel for Cuba, although then we were threatened by atmospheric phenomena characteristic of other geographic regions.

So there is no choice but living with them and consequences and to go on practicing a lot time ago: to be prepared to face them.
Cyclone of the Five Days
Category SS-3
Date October 13th to 17th 1910
Affected provinces Pinar del Río / La Habana / Island of Youth
Barometric minimum 960 hPa
Wind speed 183 km/h (e)
Main feature Flooding
Material damages not exactly quantified
Human loss 700 death (e)

Cyclone of the Five Days, Rescue at Havana Synopsis

Flooding, extraordinarily extensive, was consequence of rainfall persisting over 6 days in a row, due to the trail of the hurricane that, after crossing over the west end of Cuba, made a loop to the NW of the province of Pinar del Río. All crops – particularly tobacco- and rural housing were destroyed and cattle was decimated to a high degree. The case of large amount of heads of cattle dragged and drowned in the flooding was repeatedly cited.

Rescue at Havana
Hurricane of 1924

Category SS-5
Date October 18th to 19th 1924
Affected provinces Pinar del Río / Island of Youth
Barometric minimum 916 hPa (not registered over Cuba)
Wind speed 250 km/h (e)
Main feature destruction caused by dynamic effect of the wind
Material damages not exactly quantified
Human loss 90 death (e)

Hurricane of 1924Synopsis
This hurricane crossed over the Peninsula of Guanahacabibes at the West End of Pinar del Río, and severely damaged tobacco crops. It affected even the most robust buildings on the zone and destroyed the entire communications infrastructure over the West half of the province. It seriously affected five ships of large size and sunk many smaller vessels, mainly dedicated to fishing.


Tower of the radiotelegraph station at La Fé, twisted and torn down by the strength of the winds

Cyclone of 1926

Category SS-4
Date October 20th 1926
Affected provinces Island of Youth / La Habana / Pinar del Río / Matanzas
Barometric minimum 939 hPa
Wind speed 196 km/h
Main feature seven hours over Havana
Material damages 100 million pesos (e)
Destruction caused by dynamic effect of the wind and storm surge
Human loss about 600 death

Cyclone of 1926, Palm tree gone through by a wooden beam Synopsis
It seriously affected the West part of the country, particularly the capital city. The strength of the wind demolished crops and noticeably affected the industrial infrastructure of the city. It sank a large amount of fluvial vessels and a great many among those anchored at the harbor. Thousands of houses were destroyed and tens of bodies dragged out to sea.


Palm tree gone through by a wooden beam

Hurricane of Santa Cruz del Sur 1932
Hurricane of Santa Cruz del Sur 1932Category SS-5
Date September 9th 1932
Affected provinces Camagüey / Ciego de Ávila / Las Tunas
Barometric minimum 915 hPa (not registered over Cuba)
Wind speed 240 km/h (At Nuevitas, Camagüey)
Main feature storm surge
Material damages not exactly quantified
Human loss 3 033 death and thousands injured and affected

It constitutes the greatest natural disaster of the XX century in Cuba. It mainly affected buildings on the province of Camagüey, but coastal facilities on the south coast were completely devastated. This hurricane produced a 6 m storm surge at Santa Cruz del Sur and other locations on the south coast of Camagüey. On this village alone it caused over 2500 death.
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cuba hurricanes .org - Chronicle of hurricanes in Cuba