Flooding in Havana following Hurricane Irma. Photo: Juvenal Balán

After wreaking havoc along almost the entire northern coastline of the island as it traveled from east to west, Hurricane Irma began to move away from Cuba leaving a trail of material damage, the full extent of which is still unknown.
According to preliminary reports, flooding caused by Hurricane Irma is perhaps the most severe to have affected Havana’s coastline to date, with over 1.5 meters of water in some areas, in particular low-lying zones closest to the Malecon.
Irma, which started off as a tropical storm on August 30 west of the Cape Verde islands, began to intensify at an unusually rapid pace for the region, and by the following day had become a hurricane.
Irma reached a Category 5 rating on the Saffir-Simpson Scale on September 5, as it moved west-northwestward toward the group of islands which make up the Lesser Antilles, leaving a trail of death and destruction in its wake.
Meanwhile, meteorologist Dr. José Rubiera, highlighted that Irma set a new record; remaining a Category 5 hurricane for almost 72 straight hours.
After making landfall on the evening of September 8 to the east of Cayo Romano, north of Camagüey, Irma became one of the few Category 5 hurricanes to directly affect the island, after those of October 1846, October 1924, November 1932, and Hurricane Fox in October 1952.
Although the timing, region and trajectory of Hurricane Irma were typical, the hurricane’s rains, winds and cloud extended across an unusually large area, something that hasn’t been seen in Cuba for a very long time.
For example, in the early hours of September 10, Irma’s winds extended from Artemisa to Sancti Spíritus, affecting Havana for over 16 hours, something which hasn’t been seen since the Hurricane of October 18, 1944.
Chronological chart of the most severe coastal flooding in Havana over the last 50 years
October 1985         Hurricane Juan       
February 6, 1992    Extra-tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico       
March 13, 1993      Storm of the Century       
October 2005         Hurricane Wilma       
September 2017     Hurricane Irma