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.
Tropical Storm Philippe, the 16th named storm and 18th tropical system of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, is no more according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
The storm brought heavy rain to central Cuba and the Bahamas in addition to spawning several tornadoes when it crossed south Florida.
Sustained winds reached 95 km/h with higher gusts reported before Philippe weakened over the western Atlantic.
However, Environment Canada says the remnants are combining with a low pressure system which will bring strong winds and heavy rain to New Brunswick on Monday.
The impact of Hurricane Irma in Miami, FL, USA, 10 Sept 2017 (AP)
Irma was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm today after slamming Florida with destructive wind, heavy rain, flash flooding, high storm surges and even tornadoes.
Irma, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, made landfall over the Florida Keys on Sunday before coming ashore near Naples and then heading up the state’s west coast.
Miami was not in the storm’s direct path but was still battered by strong winds which swayed high rise buildings, brought down three construction cranes and downtown streets were swamped.
In northeast Florida, Jacksonville had historic flooding after the swollen St. Johns River spilled its banks and officials said dangerous conditions were expected for several days.
Prior to arriving in the United States, Irma claimed 10 lives in Cuba according to state media after battering Havana and tourist resorts such as Varadero and Cayo Coco where the international airport was destroyed.
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.
Hurricane Matthew passes over Les Cayes, Haiti, 04 Oct 2016 (Reuters)
Hundreds of thousands of Florida residents along its east coast from Fort Lauderdale to Cape Canaveral have been told to evacuate in advance of Hurricane Matthew.
The powerful category 3 storm is churning through the Bahamas after a brush with eastern Cuba and has maximum sustained winds at 185 km/h.
Floods and mudslides from the storm in Haiti and the Dominican Republic have claimed more than 800 lives.
The U.S National Hurricane Center believes by early Friday, Matthew will track parallel to the Atlantic coast from Florida to the Carolinas and is not certain yet if the storm will hit land.
The last time a major hurricane made landfall in the United States was Wilma in 2005 which was blamed for 35 deaths and billions of dollars in damage.
The Canadian Hurricane Centre doesn’t believe Matthew will have any significant impact on Atlantic Canada.
One of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in recent history, Matthew is swirling in the Caribbean with Haiti in its direct path.
The category 4 storm with sustained winds of 220 km/h and heavy rains causing flooding have forced thousands in Haiti and Jamaica to emergency shelters.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Matthew may lose some steam as it moves across Haiti, eastern Cuba and the Bahamas.
Forecasters currently believe Matthew will remain close to Florida and offshore to the east but caution its path could change.
Beach at Club Karey, Varadero, Cuba, 06 Feb 2014 (Dearing)
To escape a nasty New Brunswick winter, I visited Cuba (Feb 3-10) for some fun in the sun.
Temperatures at the beach resort of Varadero were well above normal during my stay with daytime maximums reaching 30 C or higher on six days and warm overnight lows from 17 C to 22 C.
Normal highs and lows for early February are 26 C and 18 C respectively.
The most comfortable times were early mornings and late afternoons as I sought shade under a palapa with a cold drink during the midday sun.
Winter is traditionally the dry season on the island with only a couple hours of heavy rain recorded late one evening.
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)