Hurricane Gustav has made it into the “breaking news” as New Orleans has narrowly escaped its wreath. Everyone was fearing the repeat of Katrina – but Gustav actually lost its grip and was downgraded to category 2 before it hit the land near Cocodrie, a thinly populated town west of New Orleans, leaving towns to the west, such as Lafayette and Baton Rouge intact.
Gustav had already wrought devastation across the Caribbean. It first struck the Caribbean last Tuesday, killing 76 people in Haiti and eight in the neighbouring Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola. The hurricane weakened to a tropical storm before hitting Jamaica making a long sweep across the island, ripping off roofs and bringing down power lines. There were no reported casualties or injuries after Gustav hit the Cayman Islands on Friday, but intense winds of up to 130kph (80mph) tore down trees while heavy rains flooded streets.
Gustav gained strength before it hit Cuba as a powerful category four hurricane. It made a direct hit on the Isla de la Juventud, south of the Cuban mainland, on Saturday, with winds reaching 220kph. As the storm marched across Cuba’s western tip, it damaged or destroyed 86,000 homes. Gusts reached 340kph in the western town of Paso Real del San Diego — a new wind speed record for a country often hit by major hurricanes. Luckily – nobody was seriously hurt and most of the 250,000 residents evacuated to shelters were back home by yesterday evening.
No serious damage has been reported from the major resort areas in Cuba and Dominican Republic.
The Jamaica Tourist Board reports it is business as usual as there was little or no damage to the island’s resorts and attractions following a brush with tropical storm Gustav. Most entities were up and running during and immediately after the storm. Both international airports in Kingston and Montego Bay reopened on Friday. As of Monday (Sept. 1), power had been restored to 92 per cent of the country. No structural damage to hotels has been reported.
The Florida Keys tourism infrastructure also escaped significant damage from Hurricane Gustav’s tropical storm-force winds that brushed over the Lower Keys and Key West late Saturday and early Sunday morning. Impact was primarily confined to some downed foliage and water on several seaside roads in Key West. The Keys infrastructure is fully functional and there were no resident or visitor evacuations for the storm. Key West Airport remained open throughout the storm and commercial air service resumed normal operations Sunday.