The 1932 Cuba hurricane stands out as a devastating moment in history. It is also known as the Hurricane of Santa Cruz del Sur or the 1932 Camagüey hurricane. It ranks as the deadliest disaster of the 20th century in Cuba. Moreover, it set records with its sheer power during the month of November.
Origins and Development of the Hurricane
The storm originated east of the Lesser Antilles in late October 1932. It took an unusual southwestward trajectory, which is atypical for the time of year, and gradually intensified. By November 2, it had developed into a hurricane.
Upon reaching the warm waters of the western Caribbean Sea, the storm underwent a period of rapid intensification. The storm reached Category 5 status by November 5, with the U.S. Weather Bureau recorded a drop in central pressure and a spike in wind speeds. At its peak, the storm presented maximum sustained winds of 175 mph. This was a remarkable intensity, especially considering the time of year. Its strength made it one of the most intense November hurricanes in the recorded history of the Atlantic basin.
Devastation at Landfall
The hurricane made landfall in Cuba on November 9th. It made landfall near the small town of Santa Cruz del Sur in Camagüey Province. At landfall, the hurricane brought sustained winds of approximately 150 mph. However, it was the storm surge, estimated to be around 20 feet, that led to the most devastating impacts. The surge inundated coastal areas, with Santa Cruz del Sur suffering near-complete destruction.
Casualties and Economic Loss
The human toll was profound, with official reports stating the loss of nearly 3,000 lives. This was primarily due to the storm surge. The economic impact was also significant, with infrastructure, agriculture, and numerous industries suffering extensive damage. Monetary losses were estimated at approximately $40 million in 1932, equivalent to roughly $860 million today.
Meteorological Legacy of the Hurricane
The 1932 Cuba hurricane is notable not only for its intensity but also for its duration as a Category 5 hurricane. It maintained this extreme intensity for an extended period, which was unprecedented for a late-season hurricane. This phenomenon provided meteorologists with valuable data on the behavior of tropical cyclones outside the peak of the season.
In the aftermath, the Cuban government and international organizations initiated substantial recovery efforts. The event also led to advancements in the region’s disaster response strategies and improvements in meteorological tracking. The tragic outcome underscored the need for better preparedness against hurricanes and the implementation of more effective early warning systems.
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