Hurricane Ian Knocks Out Power to All of Cuba

Storm heading to Florida next
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 28, 2022 12:02 AM CDT
Hurricane Ian Knocks Out Power to All of Cuba
A family walks through the rain in search of shelter after their home flooded when Hurricane Ian hit in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022.   (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Cuba remained in the dark early Wednesday after Hurricane Ian knocked out its power grid and devastated some of the country’s most important tobacco farms when it hit the island’s western tip as a major storm, the AP reports. Authorities were working overnight to gradually restore service to the country’s 11 million people, according to a statement from Cuba’s Electric Union. Power was initially knocked out to about 1 million people in Cuba’s western provinces, but later the entire grid collapsed. 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 toppled trees. Authorities were still assessing the damage, although no fatalities had been reported by Tuesday night. Ian’s winds damaged one of Cuba’s most important tobacco farms in La Robaina. “It was apocalyptic, a real disaster,” said Hirochi Robaina, owner of the farm that bears his name and that his grandfather made known internationally. Robaina, also the owner of the Finca Robaina cigar producer, posted photos on social media of wood-and-thatch roofs smashed to the ground, greenhouses in rubble and wagons overturned.

Ian was expected to get even stronger over the warm Gulf of Mexico, reaching top winds of 130mph approaching the southwestern coast of Florida, where 2.5 million people were ordered to evacuate. The US National Hurricane Center predicted Ian could become a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane before roaring ashore on Wednesday afternoon, the AP reports. Hurricane-force winds were expected in Florida well in advance of the storm's eyewall moving inland. (Another risk: leaks or other contamination related to the polluted leftovers of Florida’s phosphate fertilizer mining industry, more than 1 billion tons in “stacks” that resemble enormous ponds and are slightly radioactive. More on that here.)

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