Cuba is a tropical country with two seasons, hot and wet (May to October) and cooler and drier (November to April), with regional variations. Although its mean annual temperature is about 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit), the temperature can often rise to the mid or higher 30’s C during the summer (July and August, and even into September) and drop to the mid-teens or lower during the winter (December to February). Humidity rarely falls below 70 per cent and can often be much higher during summer.
In general, Cuba’s southern coast is hotter than the northern coast, which receives trade winds, and the Oriente (east) is generally warmer than the west. The far eastern province of Guantanamo has the driest and wettest zones of anywhere in the country, with only about 35 km separating the semi-arid southern coastal strip (average rainfall under 400 mm per year) and the northern semi-rainforest (average rainfall over 3,500 mm per year).
Cuba lies within the Atlantic Basin hurricane belt, or, as it’s sometimes known, hurricane highway. Officially, hurricane season goes from June 1st to November 30th, but hurricanes have been known to hit Cuba in other months. The most active hurricane period in Cuba tends to fall within the September-October-November period.
There is no question but that climate change has been causing an increase in the frequency and intensity of strong weather systems throughout the world, and Cuba is no exception. In 2008 the island was hit by several severe hurricanes (Gustav in August and Ike in September) which caused damages of some $10 billion.
However, loss of life was kept to a minimum because of Cuba’s internationally lauded civil defense system, a public that is kept educated and informed about tropical storms and hurricanes, an early-warning system and early evacuation programs.
Tourists who happen to be in Cuba during a hurricane often speak highly of the preparedness and promptness with which the country’s civil defense system takes them out of harm’s way, and, when necessary, installs them in other comparable tourist installations until it is deemed safe to return to their previous location.
As for what time of year it’s best to visit Cuba, this obviously depends on what kind of weather a particular visitor enjoys. The important thing to keep in mind is that if one happens to be in Cuba during a hurricane – regardless of what time of year it occurs – guaranteeing one’s safely and wellbeing as a tourist is part of the country’s civil defense system.
For up-to-date weather information in Cuba, the official Granma newspaper prints daily forecasts, and there are regular weather reports in Spanish on Cuban TV during the 8am, 1pm and 8pm news reports.
REQUEST: We would like to hear from people – who have been in Cuba during severe tropical storms and/or hurricanes – about their experiences. This could provide interesting and informative first-hand accounts to others who have either never been in a hurricane, or who have little idea of how Cuba’s civil defense system works in relation to the tourist sector.