[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Dennis Slamming Into Cuba (UPDATE 3)

Friday, July 08, 2005

Dennis Slamming Into Cuba (UPDATE 3)

Photo Courtesy of NOAA.

This Cuba-related post won't have anything to do with politics.

Hurricane Dennis, with winds of up to 150 mph, is slamming the south coast of Cuba as I type. The image above clearly shows the eye of the hurricane very close to the coast near Trinidad, which is known for its colonial architecture and is a World Heritage Site. I'm afraid the entire coast from Trinidad to Cienfuegos to the east may get a massive storm surge of up to 20 feet. A wall of water 20 feet high slamming onto the coast with large waves on top of that. The damage which can be caused from something like that is unthinkable.

The forecast track has Dennis passing very close, if not directly over, the cities of Matanzas and Havana.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Cuba.

UPDATE 3:40 PM EDT: Reports from Cuba relayed to the National Hurricane Center indicate winds of 149 mph in Cienfuegos at 1:30 PM EDT, with over 85 % of power lines down, as well as extensive damage to communications.

UPDATE 4:40 PM EDT: Just saw the following message posted on storm2k.org, a popular weather bulletin board, from a person relaying a message from someone in Havana.

Hello. Hurricane Dennis made a final adjustment in its track and is now headed directly to Havana City. According to the local forecast, the eye of the storm will be crossing Guanabo, which is about 6 Km East of our house in Tarara. Even if it moves to either side, we'll still be in the 50-mile zone of hurricane-strength winds. We have another 4 or 5 hours before we won't be able to get out of the house without being blown away, so I'll try to do some work in the meantime... Dennis is a category 4 hurricane and is forecast to strengthen a bit more before making landfall this afternoon. Sustained winds are at 150 mph (240 km/h). Also, the hurricane pummeled all of Cubas South Eastern and South Central coast, including Jardines de la Reina and Júcaro. I expect to have some dramatic reports next week as soon as crews are able to get to the area. Also, the current track will blast much of the oil infrastructure on Matanzas' Northern shore - all the wells are in the middle of the eye, as is this area's second-largest power plant. Needless to say, the government is publicly very nervous considering the bad shape of most of Old Havana's houses and buildings.

2nd message: Thanks for your input - I guess that's experience talking. While we're still able to get the NHC data via the web, we don't get updated local information because even now there's the classical Cuban censorship in place. Keep sending updates - as long as the phones work, we'll be able to download. And now we also have one of Raquel's friends here with us - she's pregnant and about 3 days from her scheduled delivery date; our resources here are better than the ones she has at her own home Let's just hope she doesn't start giving birth in the middle of the storm; now that would be something...

UPDATE 7:55 PM EDT...Reuters is reporting 10 dead in Cuba from Dennis, mostly in Granma province in southeastern Cuba where Dennis rolled through last night.

Fidel Castro said Dennis had already killed 10 people as its outer bands brushed over Cuba's southeastern corner Thursday night. Storm fatalities are rare in Communist Cuba where the authorities can muster all state resources to evacuate hundreds of thousands from the path of hurricanes. Most of the victims died in collapsed houses in Granma province, Castro said on state television. An 18-day-old baby was among those who died. On Friday, the storm's sustained winds of 135-mph (215 kph) ripped up trees and downed electricity lines in Cienfuegos and U.S. forecasters said Dennis was threatening the capital Havana, where many live in decrepit colonial buildings.


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