Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

May 14, 1999.


HAVANA - Five days after a devastating tornado killed some 40 people in Oklahoma and Kansas, two similar but less powerful twisters killed five, injured 30, and left more than 500 families without houses in the towns of Pedroso, Matanzas and Cruces, in Cienfuegos province.

Among the dead were a 3-year-old boy and a 36-year-old. The other three victims were senior citizens over 70 years old.

The Pedroso tornado was more violent than the one in Cruces. According to the Fujita-Pearson Tornado Intensity Scale, the tornado that flattened Pedroso was category F4 (devastating). An F3 (severe) twister hit Cruces.

The Oklahoma and Kansas tornado in the United States was F5 (incredible), with winds above 310 miles per hour. The Fujita-Pearson scale goes from F0 (minimal) to F6 (inconceivable). The F0 causes slight damages in television antennas, small tree branches and shrubs, but the F6 leaves everything razed.

Tornadoes are not as frequent in Cuba as in the United States, where there are about 150 tornadoes every year. In the last century on the island, nine strong tornadoes have been registered -- three of them in the F4 or F3 categories. All have happened in the provinces of Pinar del Río, Havana, Matanzas and Cienfuegos. To date, the eastern provinces have gone unscathed.

Tornadoes are generated in the same way as strong storms, due to high humidity, unstable air at ground level and the horizontal convergence of winds at low level. If a funnel does not touch earth as the remaining part of the base of the cloud, Cubans call it "rabo de nube" (cloud's tail) or "manga de viento" (wind's hose). At sea, a similar but weaker phenomenon takes place known as "tromba marina" (waterspout).

The nature of tornadoes is not well-known due the limited area of their rapid formation and they are not predictable.

Cuban television showed the gravity of the damages in images from Pedroso and Cruces. Many of the damaged houses were made of wood or flimsily built. Authorities are working arduously to restore normalcy. Hundreds of victims are receiving extra food quotas and a minimum food supply because the majority lost everything.

On the other hand, the tropical storm season that begins June 1 (and ends Aug. 30) is predicted to produce 14 tropical storms, and five of these may become hurricanes. The most severe storms are predicted in the middle of August, most likely originating in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean Sea, with corresponding dangers for the countries of the region.

In that case, the drought now in eastern Cuba could be followed by storm-driven floods.

Tania Quintero, Cuba Free Press

P.O. Box 652035
Miami, FL 33265-2035
Phone: (305)270 8779 -- Fax: (305)595 1883

Copyright © 1999 - Cuba Free Press, Inc.