Cuba’s hurricane hunters

Specialists at Insmet are monitoring the evolution of Hurricane Irma, round the clock. Photo: Sergio Gomez

Insmet’s team of specialists is working round the clock monitoring the evolution of Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest the Atlantic region has ever seen

Even before Hurricane Irma began to approach Cuba, the pace of work at the National Meteorological Institute (Insmet) had risen several points on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Nestled on Casa Blanca’s hillside, overlooking Havana Bay, the Institute is responsible for monitoring all weather phenomena which could affect the island.
The office is abuzz, with phones ringing off the hook as people constantly come and go. Meteorologists take turns supplying up-to-date information and forecasts directly to national television stations.
The team of specialists, whose chief mission is to provide metrological and climate information, is working round the clock, monitoring the evolution of Hurricane Irma, which has become of the strongest the Atlantic region has ever seen.
Miguel Ángel Hernández, Insmet meteorologist and one of the center’s most well known faces due to his multiple television appearances, noted that as shift manager he is responsible for leading a team of six specialists, each in charge for a specific area, including satellite analysis, map data reviews and control, monitoring marine conditions, and the weather situation in Havana, among others.

Speaking to Granma, Hernández noted that as a team we are responsible for providing information such as extended weather and marine forecasts, adding that when it comes to drawing up forecasts “the key cog in the wheel” is the Meteorological Observatory.
The Institute, home to the National Observatory since 1908, receives information from all over the country, which must be highly accurate in order for experts to evaluate every natural phenomenon.
Hugo Luis Rodríguez Méndez, marine meteorology specialist, is responsible for monitoring the impact of Irma on Cuba’s coasts. He noted that the hurricane’s powerful 280 kilometer an hour winds will cause massive waves along the island’s northern coastline.
Four to eight meter high waves are expected to be seen at various points across the country, while storm surges are forecast for low-lying areas on the island’s northern coastline, he added.
Meanwhile, Ángela Rodríguez Montejo is responsible for monitoring weather conditions in Havana, home to the largest number of inhabitants and material resources on the island.
Regarding the impact of Irma on the capital, she explained that the effects of the hurricane aren’t expected to be felt until Saturday and Sunday, with increased cloud cover, rains, and strong tides representing a potential danger to nautical activities.
“We advise Havana residents to remain alert and follow Insmet’s forecasts and measures as indicated by Civil Defense Councils,” noted the specialist.
Speaking to Granma, Minister of Science, Technology and Environment (Citma), Elba Rosa Pérez Montoya, highlighted the importance of Insmet for a small island nation, the victim of an economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States, which prevents it from acquiring all the necessary technical equipment.
In this sense she emphasized the accumulated experience of specialists, many of whom hold either a Masters or PhD degree, as well as the various young members of staff who have joined the center over recent years.
“The center is not only able to provide analyses for Cuba, but its contributions also extend to the entire region,” she stated. “This Institute is a bulwark and example of the work of the Revolution.”

Gabriela Ávila Gómez, Granma

September 8, 2017


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