By Mayté Solano Gómez

Between the months of June and November, each year, we expect tropical cyclones in Cuba. Sometimes more intense, sometimes less, a high level of expertise has already been developed on the island for coping with them. In this way, although these climatic phenomena must be constantly monitored, Cuba is one of the safest places in the world if you face one.

What to expect in terms of tropical cyclones in Cuba in 2020?

Cuba, as part of its cyclone defense system has had its Institute of Meteorology (Insmet), since 1996, among the few in the world that issue predictions about the behavior of the cyclone season. For 2020, between June 1 and November 30, it is expected to be a very active one.

According to forecasts, there will be 15 named tropical cyclones. Of these, 8 could reach hurricane status, all in the Tropical Atlantic zone. In the case of Cuba, there is a 60% probability of being affected by at least one of these organisms.

To give you an idea, an average hurricane season produces 12 named storms (winds of at least 39 miles per hour, or 63 km / h), of which 6 become hurricanes (sustained winds of at least 74 miles per hour, or 119 km / h), including 2-3 major hurricanes (winds greater than 111 mph, 178 km / h).

Forecasts … forecasts.

However, forecasts are nothing more than that. They fail to determine in advance when and where specifically the cyclone will form. As for Cuba, there is nothing that can accurately determine the direct impact. For example, in 2003 and 2008, 16 named systems were registered in both years. However, in 2003 Cuba was not hit by any of them, while in 2008 it was directly affected by tropical storm Fay and hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Paloma.

In a very similar way, in both 2011 and 2012, 19 storms occurred in the region. While in 2011 Cuba was not affected by any, in 2012 we were hit by Tropical Storm Isaac and the intense Hurricane Sandy.

In any case, the best option will always be to stay alert and prepared to comply with the measures advised by the Civil Defense in Cuba. Especially if you take into account that the tropical storms Arthur and Bertha have already formed unusually early this year in May.

What are tropical cyclones?

From a meteorological point of view, tropical cyclones are the most dangerous phenomena for the West Indies, which includes Cuba. They are low pressure areas in which the circulation of the winds can reach different levels of intensity. They include tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes.

• Tropical depressions: low pressure areas with maximum sustained winds with speeds below 63 km per hour (less than 39 miles per hour). They are the pre-development phase of tropical storms, on average 60% of depressions reach the category of tropical storm.

• Tropical storms: they are named and have maximum sustained winds between 63 and 117 km per hour (39 and 73 miles per hour). They are the pre-hurricane phase, although not all storms develop to become hurricanes.

Tropical cyclones in Cuba
Hurricanes have maximum sustained winds above 118 km per hour (74 miles per hour).

• Hurricanes: They are named and have maximum sustained winds above 118 km per hour (74 miles per hour).

Hurricanes are classified into 5 categories based on the speed of their winds at ground level. Those of categories 4 and 5 are the most intense and, therefore, the most damaging. This is due to the combination of strong winds, torrential rains and large coastal swells that cause dangerous and destructive floods, collapsing buildings and falling trees. As a consequence, there is considerable loss of human lives and natural, material and economic resources.

What happens before the imminent scourge of tropical cyclones in Cuba?

It is a fact that in Cuba the most important thing is the human being. That is why the government takes the necessary measures to protect human lives, even above material and economic resources. Wisely, year after year, we have learnt to face the scourge of hurricanes. For this reason, Cubans are already aware that, faced with the imminence of one of them, it is vital to comply with the measures advised by the Civil Defense.

The evacuation of those possibly affected is one of the first actions that are carried out. Although decades ago many were reluctant to leave their homes and belongings, today a system has been created that works almost automatically. Furthermore, many times the government does not need to intervene, since the safest places are already identified in the different areas. These include the neighbors’ own homes, whether they are family or not.

Tropical cyclones in Cuba. Consequences.
Due to the combination of strong winds, torrential rains and large coastal swells hurricanes can cause dangerous and destructive floods, collapsing buildings and falling trees.

From an institutional point of view, each workplace carries out previously defined procedures to protect its resources. These resources go from the buildings themselves, to the equipment they have. Only really essential people remain in their positions, always taking the necessary measures to protect their lives.

Other measures that are adopted are the collection of solid waste and the destruction of drains. When the winds start to get stronger, the electrical and gas supply system is disconnected.

Safety for tourists is guaranteed

As much as for Cubans, it is totally safe for tourists to stay in Cuba during the scourge of a hurricane. Like the island’s population, they are evacuated if necessary, to hotels and facilities with all the required safety and comfort conditions.

Casa Estilo 50. A good place to face tropical cyclones in Cuba
Private houses like Casa Estilo 50 have resisted, year after year, the onslaught of hurricanes in Cuba.

To summ up…

Fortunately, seasonal forecasts have made it possible to gain a deeper understanding of the atmospheric and oceanic factors that influence the behavior of cyclonic activity. So if you are in Cuba during a hurricane, don’t panic. Just enjoy the experience. If not, remember that the hurricane season months are between June 1 and November 30. Therefore, between December and April, in the high season, you can visit the island.

In any case, the most important thing will always be to get informed and prepare, following the guidelines of the Cuban Civil Defense.