MIAMI – Hurricane Ian made landfall early Tuesday morning in Cuba’s tobacco-rich Pinar del Rio province. The Category 3 storm — with winds of up to 125 mph and up to 14 feet of storm surge — started to beat the coastal village of Coloma at about 4:30 a.m.
Carmen Pino, who was born in Coloma and lives in Tampa, was worried about her family. She said her heart broke when she talked to her 99-year-old father, Jesus Pino Aleman, who was among the Cubans whose homes were flooded and damaged.
“To see my father in those conditions was the most difficult moment I have lived,” Pino said in Spanish later adding, “The most difficult moment in the history of my town was last night.”
Government-owned media reported the residents of Pinar del Rio were without power. Later, on Tuesday evening, the National Electrical System, or SEN, the government-owned power company, reported the entire country was experiencing power outages.
SEN promised to restore the electrical system “gradually between tonight and early tomorrow.” Granma, the Cuban government’s main newspaper, reported the island had not experienced a hurricane of that magnitude for about 14 years.
SEN’s technical director, Lázaro Guerra, told Granma the outage happened because of a “phenomenon of instability” that “divided the electrical system and later caused its total collapse.
Related story: Cuba without electricity after hurricane hammers power grid
The storm surge caused massive flooding in coastal areas in southwestern and northwestern Cuba. The wind also tore roofs, destroyed wooden homes, and uprooted trees.
Many of the 50,000 people who evacuated their coastal towns and farms have yet to be able to check up on their homes.
Amid an economic crisis with shortages of food, farmers lost animals and crops.
The crisis before the hurricane was so dire that U.S. authorities have reported that more desperate Cubans than usual have been risking their lives at sea to get to South Florida.
Just on Tuesday afternoon, under a cloudy gray sky, a group arrived in a wooden boat at Pompano Beach.
As of Tuesday evening, the hurricane continued moving out of Cuba and into the Gulf of Mexico where it was forecast to strengthen into a Category 4 before making landfall in western Florida.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel wore his military green fatigues and a baseball cap to visit Pinar Del Rio on Tuesday afternoon and say the assessment of the damage was ongoing.
“The first impact is very painful,” Diaz Canel said in Spanish.
Zoom in to view specific areas
Tuesday’s satellite image
Watch the 6 p.m. report
Watch the 4:30 p.m. report
Watch the 3:30 p.m. report
Watch the 12 p.m. report