Hurricane Ian Leaves Cuba Without Power for Island’s 11 Million Residents

by Sean Griffin
(Photo by Yander Zamora/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Hurricane Ian knocked out power in all of Cuba on Tuesday. The hurricane barraged the western tip of the island and destroyed many of the country’s most important tobacco farms, according to an AP report.

Cuba’s Electric Union reported that they were currently working to restore power to the country’s eleven million residents during the night. However, they said the process would be gradual. Initially, about one million people experienced outages in the western provinces. Then, the entire grid collapsed shortly after.

Cuba has already been plagued by power outages in recent months. Moreover, Hurricane Ian hit Cuba during a financial crisis in the country. The hurricane measured as a Category 3 when it made contact. The Pinar del Río province, where the iconic Cuban cigar’s tobacco is mainly grown, suffered catastrophic damages.

Tens of thousands evacuated the area before Ian’s landfall. The storm caused massive flooding and damage to houses and trees. However, while the damage was massive, there still hasn’t been a reported loss of life.

The winds of the storms harmed a crucial tobacco farm in La Robaina.

“It was apocalyptic, a real disaster,” said Hirochi Robaina, owner of the farm that bears his name. His grandfather started the company and grew it into an international success.

Robaina posted photos on social media of the devastation: roofs collapsed and broken, cars and wagons overturned, buildings now rubble.

State media said Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel visited the most affected area.

Cuban Government Assesses Hurricane Ian’s Damage in Country

The city of Pinar del Río bore the brunt of the hurricane for over an hour and a half, according to Cuba’s Meteorology Institute.

“Being in the hurricane was terrible for me, but we are here alive,” said Pinar del Rio resident Yusimí Palacios, who asked reportedly asked authorities for a roof and a mattress.

Officials had set up 55 shelters and evacuated 50,000 people. They also took precautions to protect crops, especially tobacco crops.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Cuba suffered “significant wind and storm surge impacts” when the hurricane struck. Reportedly, it hit with top sustained winds of 125 mph (205 kph).

Ian became even stronger once it reached the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Its top winds clocked in at 130 mph (209 kph) when it approached the southwestern coast of Florida. 2.5 million people were ordered to evacuate the area there.

Once the storm moved more firmly into the Gulf, the destruction from Cuba became more evident. Authorities are still assessing the damage in the island’s famous tobacco belt.

Pinar del Rio’s major hospital suffered damage, according to local government outlet TelePinar. While many collapsed trees and power lines have been reported, there fortunately haven’t been any deaths reported thus far.

“I spent the hurricane at home with my husband and the dog. The masonry and zinc roof of the house had just been installed. But the storm tore it down,” said Mercedes Valdés, who lives along the highway that connects Pinar del Río to San Juan y Martínez. “We couldn’t rescue our things … we just ran out.”