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Cuba Dodges Major Damage From Hurricane Michael

Oct 9, 2018 | By Gordon Mott
Cuba Dodges Major Damage From Hurricane Michael
Photo/Habanos S.A.
Filler tobacco flourishes in Cuba's Pinar del Río region.

Early reports from Pinar del Río, the province where Cuba’s finest tobacco is produced, indicate that there has been no significant damage from the passage of Hurricane Michael. The storm, which was a Category 2 with sustained winds of 110 miles per hour as this story was filed, didn’t make landfall in Cuba but swept the far western portion of the island yesterday with winds and rain as it moved north in the Gulf of Mexico, toward the United States. 

“We had some wind, but it hasn’t caused any problems,” said Hector Luis Prieto, one of Cuba’s top tobacco producers. Prieto said that his tobacco barns all survived Michael, and since he had not planted any tobacco yet, there was nothing to damage in his fields.

About five miles away, a little closer to the town of San Juan y Martínez, tobacco grower Gerardo Medina Relova said that there was some minor damage from wind to some older tobacco barns, but “nothing that won’t be fixed very quickly.” He also reiterated that there had been no major damage in the area.

The big question mark is what happened in the greenhouses where tobacco seedlings were planted in the last 10 days. Both Medina and Prieto said it will take time to assess the extent, if any, of the damage. 

“Water and wind aren’t good for the semilleros, ” said Medina, using the Spanish word for seedbed. “But it is going to take at least two days before we know what kind of damage occurred.” Medina also said that since the seedbeds were only planted last week, even if there is any damage, it won’t be too late to replant and have the seedlings ready by mid-November. If that is true, the planting season would only be delayed by a matter of days, not weeks.

The National Weather Service in the U.S., based on radar reports, predicted that between 7 to 12 inches of rain fell in various parts of Cuba’s growing region from mid-day Monday to Tuesday morning. The weather service reported that in the city of Pinar del Río more than 7 inches of rain was recorded.

But as of Tuesday morning, the storm had moved on from Cuba. “It’s over already,” Medina said.

Hurricane Michael is expected to intensify as it moves north, and has been forecasted to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle Gulf Coast on Wednesday. 

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