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Weather Nerd

Paloma weakens over Cuba

November 9th, 2008 - 9:40 am

Hurricane Paloma is, as expected, falling apart over Cuba, due to the combination of land interaction and wind shear. In the National Hurricane Center’s 10am EST discussion, forecasters candidly admit that they don’t really know how strong Paloma’s winds are at this point, but they estimate them at 60 mph, with further rapid weakening expected. Meanwhile, according to Reuters, “the Cuban weather service said it was all but gone and was now not even a tropical depression.” The reality may be somewhere in between what they’re saying in Miami and what they’re saying in Havana.

There isn’t much to say about Paloma’s future, because it doesn’t have much of one. The official forecast calls for Paloma to be a tropical depression within 24 hours, and a remnant low within 48, but the discussion adds, “IF THE CURRENT LACK OF DEEP CONVECTION PERSISTS…PALOMA COULD DEGENERATE TO A REMNANT LOW SOONER THAN PREDICTED HERE.” With wind shear forecast in the 50 mph range, it’s difficult to see how Paloma will be able to regenerate much convection.

The real question now is how much damage the storm has done. In Cuba, that may be hard to ascertain. Alan Sullivan, blogging from the cruise ship Noordam, snarks:

Southern Cuba must have taken a bad hit from surge yesterday. The storm was moving on a rare trajectory and caught a concave coast. We will probably hear reports than no one was killed. No one is ever killed in Cuban hurricanes, thanks to the superior media control. How do you say “fairness doctrine” in Spanish?

For what it’s worth, here is what the AP is reporting so far about storm damage in Cuba:

A ferocious Hurricane Paloma roared ashore in Cuba on Sunday, downing power lines, flooding the coast and forcing hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate on an island still recovering from two other devastating storms.

Early reports of damage were limited, but Cuban state media said the late-season storm toppled a major communications tower on the southern coast, interrupted electricity and phone service, and sent sea surges of up to 700 meters along the coast.

I assume that “700 meters” means the surge went that far inland; certainly Paloma did not produce a wall of water 700 meters (or 2,300 feet) high. Anyway…

In the central-eastern Cuban province of Camaguey, more than 220,000 people were evacuated from low-lying areas. Another 170,000 people were moved in the eastern province of Las Tunas.

Cuba regularly relocates masses of people to higher ground ahead of tropical storms and hurricanes, preventing major losses of life. …

In an essay published in state media Saturday, former President Fidel Castro warned that Paloma could slow Cuba’s recovery from hurricanes Gustav and Ike, which hit in late August and September causing about $9.4 billion in damage and destroying nearly a third of the island’s crops.

Meanwhile, Cayman Net News reports extensive damage to Cayman Brac:

The majority of buildings on Cayman Brac have sustained major damage and some roads on the South Side remain impassable following the passage of Hurricane Paloma . . .

According to Cayman Net News Brac correspondent Carlton Lyons, approximately 50 per cent of houses have completely lost their roofs and approximately 20 per cent more have partial roof damage. Mr Lyons estimated that only 30 per cent of homes on Cayman Brac remained completely intact with no structural damage. He also said that some homes appeared to be completely destroyed. 

Cayman Brac’s 1,800 residents are currently without power, running water or Internet service. Many utility poles were downed or snapped by the force of Hurricane Paloma’s powerful winds. 

In addition to destroying homes, Paloma also caused damage to some of the Brac’s Government buildings and business places. 

Mr Lyons reported damage to two Government hurricane shelters. Part of the roof came off at the West End Primary School, and the ceilings caved in. The same situation occurred at the Seaman’s Centre on the Bluff. . . .

Of the major businesses on Cayman Brac, Mr Lyons reported that Billy’s Supermarket is “completely destroyed” and the building housing Tibbetts Enterprise has lost its roof. He also reported that the Tibbetts Square Marketplace, which houses the Cayman Brac office of the Cayman Net News, has lost its roof and Paloma’s torrential rains soaked through the structure. 

The Brac’s houses of worship were not immune from the high winds, and Mr Lyons observed that the Cotton Tree Bay church received extensive damage. 

The Brac’s tourism sector also received significant damage, with Mr Lyons reporting that the roofs on the Brac Caribbean Beach Resort and the Brac Reef Resort were lost to Paloma’s winds. . . .

Most of the damage on Cayman Brac appears to be caused by Paloma’s high winds; however, Mr Lyons said that the district of Spot Bay also experienced extensive flooding. 

Mr Lyons reported that the West End of Cayman Brac appears to be the most extensively damaged area of the island.

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