Several travelers on expeditions scheduled for November and December have asked me about hurricanes and hurricane season in Cuba. Reports of Hurricane Joaquin are making headlines today because of the danger to the east coast of the United States. Here are some main points to remember:
Hurricanes can occur in any month, but the official season in the Caribbean lasts for 6 months–from May 1 to November 30. These dates mark the far ends of a bell-shaped curve. The “peak” is September 1st, and the most likely months are August and September. If you pick a week in the peak months to visit any location in Cuba or the rest of the Caribbean, the odds of being significantly affected by a hurricane are about 1:100. Caribbean hurricanes from November through March are extremely rare.
Unlike tornados and earthquakes, hurricanes can be tracked for several days prior to arriving at a particular point, and you can alter your plans accordingly.
Cuba has extensive experience in hurricane preparedness, and routinely advises other countries in the area. Cuban hurricane research and preparedness services routinely communicate with the National Hurricane Center in Miami to exchange data and collaborate on storm forecasting. The level of cooperation has increased dramatically in the last 6 months since the beginning of normalization of relations between the 2 countries.
Casual observers are frequently alarmed by overly-dramatic reports by U.S. news broadcasts, showing soaked field reporters at the beach with crashing waves in the background. News anchors frequently point out an 800-mile wide “cloud swirl” of hurricanes such as Joaqun, not emphasizing that severe damage is from a relatively small “eye” near the center where the damaging winds occur. (In 2005 I was in a remote part of eastern Cuba when Hurricane Katrina passed to the north. The eye passed through the National Hurricane Center in Miami, causing severe damage in the immediate area. The news maps showed the huge cloud swirl directly over where we were camped, causing much concern for my family watching from the U.S.. For those of us on the beach in Cuba, it was just another beautiful day with light breezes and unusual cloud formations.) However, flooding from rainfall and damage from waves can occur hundreds of miles from the eye.
Cuban hotels on the beach are built to international standards. Each has a specific plan for visitors to remain in place or to be evacuated inland. Each room will have specific instructions in case a hurricane watch or hurricane warning is issued.
For more information about Cuba and hurricanes, please click on the link before. This article was published 2 years ago, and the amount of cooperation between Cuba and the U.S. since then has increased significantly.