Hurricane Paloma leveled hundreds of homes along Cuba’s southern coast before rapidly losing steam over land on Sunday, weakening from a dangerous Category 4 storm into a tropical depression in less than a day. Crashing surf and a powerful sea surge sent waves almost a mile (1 1/2 kilometers) inland as the storm ravaged Santa Cruz del Sur, the coastal community where it came ashore on Saturday night.
More than 10-foot-high (3-meter-high) waves washed away nearly all traces of about 50 modest houses in Santa Cruz del Sur. Civil Defense authorities said that 435 homes in the community were destroyed. Authorities added that the late-season storm toppled a major communications tower, interrupted electricity and phone service, but no storm-related deaths were reported. Across central and eastern Cuba, 1.2 million people were evacuated. About one-fifth of those were taken to shelters in schools and government buildings, but most spent the night with neighbours or relatives whose homes authorities deemed able to withstand the hurricane. Cuba regularly moves people en masse to higher ground before tropical storms and hurricanes, preventing major loss of life.
Cuba had feared that Paloma could cripple its recovery from Gustav and Ike, which caused about $9.4 billion in damage and destroyed nearly a third of the island’s crops. But a spokesman from Cuba’s national power company said damage to the power grid was far less than that caused by the previous two hurricanes. Paloma was a Category 4 hurricane when it hit Santa Cruz del Sur, but quickly lost strength. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami reported that by Sunday morning, the Cuban and Bahamian governments had discontinued all warnings associated with it. By late Sunday night, Paloma’s center was 40 miles (70 kilometers) north of the colonial city of Camaguey and was moving northward at 3 mph (5 kph). Its remnants were expected to emerge off the north coast of Cuba today. The storm’s winds had weakened to 30 mph (45 kph). However, there is a possibility that the wind speed may intensify as the storm moves back out to sea.
Please click on the link below to see the path of the storm.