Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

U.S. Looks to Cuba for Storm Prediction ; Experts Hope Cooperation Can Extend to Disaster Management and Beyond

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

U.S. Looks to Cuba for Storm Prediction ; Experts Hope Cooperation Can Extend to Disaster Management and Beyond

Article excerpt

Some experts wish that cooperation would extend to the nonmeteorological aspects of storms since the countries' disaster- management agencies have no direct communication.

Old computer processors whirred and paint crumbled from the walls in the National Prognostic Center of Cuba's Meteorological Institute, set on a rise above Havana's old city. Half a dozen meteorologists shifted their gaze between satellite images on large video screens and a giant overhead map of the United States.

They monitor the region's weather every day, but their gaze grows especially intense in hurricane season. As the center's director, Jose Rubiera, explained, almost every hurricane that strikes the Southern United States passes through Cuba first. "A hurricane that hits Cuba doesn't ask for a visa before entering the United States," he said.

This shared destiny has led to a rare truce between the two nations, which have had no bilateral relations for more than 50 years. Their meteorological agencies exchange daily satellite data, jointly analyze radar and collaborate on storm forecasting.

When a storm is approaching, "we call the National Prognostic Center or they call us, whoever gets to the phone first," said Lixion Avila, a senior specialist at the United States government's National Hurricane Center.

Dr. Avila called Cuba one of the United States' most valuable meteorological partners. "Cuba has a long history of excellent forecasting with a tremendous record of data," he said.

Or as Michael T. Clegg, foreign secretary of the National Academy of Sciences, put it, "It seems that the substantial threat to the human population" posed by storms "is taken seriously enough to make cooperation more desirable."

Some experts on both sides wish that cooperation would extend to the nonmeteorological aspects of storms. The countries' disaster- management agencies have no direct communication.

"Cuba manages hurricanes well," said Russel L. Honore, the retired lieutenant general who commanded military relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005. He has since become an specialist on disaster preparedness and has traveled to Cuba three times in recent years. "We could be learning from them," he added.

Cuba consistently weathers Category 4 and 5 hurricanes with relatively few casualties. The Center for International Policy, a research and advocacy group based in Washington, says a person is 15 times as likely to be killed by a hurricane in the United States as in Cuba. The island did suffer a body blow last fall from Hurricane Sandy, the second biggest storm in Cuban history. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.