The beaches of Varadero, Cuba, 15 February 2018 (Dearing)
Let’s face it, winter in Southeast New Brunswick has been a volatile roller coaster ride with wildly fluctuating temperatures and unusual amounts of mixed precipitation.
I wanted an escape, so a two-week vacation getaway to Cuba was in order.
From 06-20 February, the island’s most popular beach destination of Varadero enjoyed daytime highs in the upper 20s C with glorious sunshine and just a few passing clouds.
Winter is the dry season in Cuba and precipitation was light except for a lengthy downpour of rain during just one early morning.
Varadero has some of the best beaches in the Caribbean and millions of international visitors – mostly Canadians – flock there every year.
The parade of hurricanes in the Atlantic continues with Maria making landfall late tonight over the eastern Caribbean island nation of Dominica as a powerful category 5 storm packing sustained winds of 260 km/h.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center is outlying a path for Maria which is eerily similar to the recent Hurricane Irma with the U.S and British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico expected to be impacted on Wednesday.
Maria will be accompanied by a dangerous storm surge and between 300-500 mm (12-20 inches) of rain to some of the islands causing life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.
Meantime, Hurricane Jose is still churning northward as a category 1 storm with heavy surf and rip currents along the U.S East Coast from North Carolina to Massachusetts.
Canadian forecasters say the remnants of Jose have already brought high humidity to the Maritimes and will give Nova Scotia persistent moisture and cloud cover as well as rough surf along the Atlantic coast.
From left to right, Hurricanes Katia, Irma, Jose, 08 Sept 2017 (Earth Wind Map)
Irma aftermath on St. Maarten Island, eastern Caribbean, 06 Sept 2017 (Reuters)
Hurricane Irma has barreled through the Caribbean as a Category 5 storm claiming more than 20 lives and destroying more than 90 percent of the buildings on the islands of Barbuda, St. Martin/St. Maarten and St. Barts.
Irma is heading for Florida where officials say it could be the strongest storm ever and evacuation orders have led to massive lineups at gas stations as residents flee northward.
Following a similar path, Hurricane Jose is a Category 4 storm which could hit the already battered islands of Antigua and Barbuda.
Hurricane Katia is a Category 2 storm in the Gulf of Mexico which will make landfall along Mexico’s east coast bringing heavy rain and a storm surge before dissipating quickly over the rugged Sierra Madre mountains.
Forecasters say three simultaneous hurricanes is quite rare and the last time was in 2010 with Hurricanes Igor, Julia and Karl.
Hurricane Irma is being called a “potentially catastrophic” category 5 storm by the U.S National Hurricane Center with maximum sustained winds of 295 km/h as it bears down on the eastern Caribbean.
The core of Irma is expected to move across the northern Leeward Islands overnight and will track close to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by late Wednesday and the Dominican Republic by Thursday.
A hurricane watch has also been issued for eastern Cuba along with northern Haiti, southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos.
Forecasters say Irma is increasingly likely to target Florida (now under a state of emergency) and parts of the American Southeast as a dangerous hurricane this weekend.
Flooding after Hurricane Matthew in Charleston, SC, USA, 08 Oct 2016 (Getty Images)
The U.S. National Hurricane Center finally downgraded Matthew to a post-tropical cyclone today after pounding North and South Carolina with strong winds, heavy rain and record flooding before moving east out to sea.
Matthew made landfall near Charleston, South Carolina yesterday as a category 1 hurricane after hugging Florida’s Atlantic coast.
Hundreds had to be rescued from floodwaters in the Carolinas including one woman who was forced to cling to a tree overnight before emergency workers arrived.
The most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade has claimed at least 20 deaths in the Southeastern United States and more than 900 in the Caribbean, mostly in Haiti.
Man surveys damage from Hurricane Sandy in Gibara, Cuba, 25 October 2012 (AP photo)
Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the Bahamas today after ripping across eastern Cuba where it downed trees and power lines and even destroyed homes.
The Category 2 hurricane has reportedly killed more than 21 people in the Caribbean.
Residents in the Bahamas formed long lines to stock up on water, canned goods, flashlights and other items, leaving grocery store shelves nearly empty.
Forecasters warn the hurricane could reach the U.S. East Coast where it could mix with a winter storm early next week.
Tropical Storm Isaac is now churning in the Caribbean Sea near the French island of Guadaloupe and forecasters say it is on a path to Cuba and Florida.
The U.S. National Hurricane Centre says Isaac will likely strengthen to a hurricane by the time it reaches Florida.
Puerto Rico and other nearby islands are making preparations for the storm including closing ports and suspending flights.
Martinique had already been swamped by more than 80 mm of rain by this morning.
Varadero Beach, Cuba, 23 Feb 2012 (Dearing photo)
My recent fourth visit to Cuba (22-29 February) turned out to be the hottest trip to the Caribbean island yet.
Normal late February temperatures in Varadero range from a high of 26 C to a low of 16 C.
However during the week I visited, daily highs were at least 30 C with an average low of 17 C.
Even the locals were complaining of the heat since an average high of 30 C is more typical of May.
(Stats courtesy wunderground.com)