Hurricane Fiona cut across the far eastern portion of the Dominican Republic yesterday, making landfall near Boca de Yuma with winds gusting to more than 100 miles per hour and soaking parts of the island with heavy rain. Areas were flooded and there were reports that more than 1 million Dominicans have been left without access to running water.
La Romana, located only some 30 miles to the west of where the storm made landfall, is home to Tabacalera de Garcia, one of the world’s largest handmade cigar factories. Owned by Altadis U.S.A. Inc., it makes Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, Henry Clay and many other cigar brands. “Although the area of La Romana received a lot of wind and rain, the preliminary reports indicate no major damage to the employees or the factory. More will be known today as conditions improve,” said Rafael Nodal, head of product capability for Altadis U.S.A. “In some areas, it has been devastating.”
“The storm hit us harder than we thought but thankfully everyone is safe and there was minimal structural damage. Just a lot of trees down and rain,” said Jason Kycek, vice president at Casa de Campo, the luxurious resort in La Romana. “Cleanup crews have been at it since yesterday and we should be up and running fully by tomorrow.”
The Dominican government declared a state of emergency in much of the east, according to The New York Times, and one death was reported in the country. President Luis Abinader said parts of the country would be declared disaster zones, including the region near the far eastern resort city of Punta Cana.
In Santiago, where most Dominican cigars are made, the damage and disruption appears to be minimal. The government ordered work to stop yesterday, so cigar factories were closed, such as Ernesto Perez-Carrillo’s Tabacalera La Alianza. “We didn’t work yesterday, but started today and all is well,” he said. “It did a lot of damage in the east.”
Ciro Cascella of Arturo Fuente said other than “a lot of rain,” things were well in both Santiago, where Fuente makes its cigars, and further south in Bonao, where it grows wrapper tobacco.
Tobacco grower Siegfried Maruschke, who has his main warehouse in Moca, some 18 miles from Santiago, also reported no damage. It’s still early in the season, and his tobacco is in the seedbed stage. “In the Cibao valley, as of the end of today, although it’s still raining, no tobacco field flooding nor any significant tobacco infrastructure damage was evidenced,” he told Cigar Aficionado. “Apparently, the Cibao Valley was saved by the mountains and by the hurricane path.”
The storm previously ravaged Puerto Rico, bringing more than two feet of rain in some areas and shutting off power to the entire island for a time. Two deaths were reported in Puerto Rico.
Hurricane Fiona, presently near the Turks and Caicos, is predicted to continue strengthening as it moves north—meteorologists predict it will later turn out toward the sea before making landfall again in far eastern Canada.
—additional reporting by Gregory Mottola