Perhaps unintentionally, Oscar Benedico Rodríguez, director of Ciego de Ávila's Provincial Meteorological Center, warned several years ago, "In the future, we will have strong tropical storms, and the period of greatest danger will be between September and November, when the heat of the Caribbean in lower levels of the atmosphere, and the colder temperatures at higher altitudes, favor the convective movement of clouds."
And he was not mistaken in his forecast. Last September, the howling winds of Hurricane Irma were heard throughout the province, north to south, but the greatest damage was seen in the municipalities of Bolivia (where the hurricane made landfall), Primero de Enero, Morón, and Chambas, even though places like the Palmarito neighborhood, in the southern town of Júcaro, were practically wiped off the map.
Other hurricanes have hit Ciego de Avila: Gilbert (1988), Lili (1996), Isidore and Michelle (both in 2001), and Iván (2004), swept through without leaving major damage, but Irma wreacked havoc.
Once the destruction was quantified, the numbers shared by authorities were chilling, but Irma could not deliver the province a mortal blow. Just a few hours after the storm had moved on, another hurricane arrived: one of recovery, solidarity, work, and a commitment that all works raised would be more beautiful and better than those they replaced.
Thus, where there were fragile dwellings, construction workers along with homeowners and neighbors are raising stronger homes. Where some institution was demolished, a new, better version is rising.
Among many, just three examples: Who would have believed that within, only 20 days, thousands of kilometers of downed cables could be restored, like those in Ciego de Avila that measured twice the island's length!
Or that 40 days after Irma's direct blow to the beach resorts of Jardines del Rey, these facilities would open their doors for the 2017-2018 winter season, renovated and ready to offer high quality services, with many enjoying even better conditions than before the storm.
Or that despite the impact on agriculture, shelves in produce markets are not empty, as a result of strategies undertaken, including the sowing of short cycle crops and expansion of the cold season campaign, to reach 23,000 hectares this year.
In this recovery effort, nothing is haphazard, just a great deal of work and careful supervision, with the Central Strategic Region and its chief officer, Corps General Joaquín Quintas Solá, playing a decisive role. This new way of organizing the recovery once again demonstrates the unity shared by the people and the Revolutionary Armed Forces, and their commitment to the nation's wellbeing and development.
Neither the drought, first, or the hurricane have tempered Ciego de Avila's aspirations for progress, as can be seen in the works completed thus far and the challenges undertaken.
Ileana Venegas Acosta, provincial director of Economy and Planning, confirmed this point of view in a recent press conference, saying, "Despite the hurricane, the province saw modest growth in its principle macroeconomic indicators (net sales, gross value added, and production of goods and services), a tendency that has been maintained for a decade."
The day after Irma was an anxious one, impossible to forget, but on this island accustomed to hurricanes - come from where they may - a hopeful morning is never a utopia.
FACTS & FIGURES
Information through December 28
31,540 homes affected, 8,750 repaired or rebuilt
2,851 homes partially destroyed, 819 repaired
4,231 homes destroyed, 232 rebuilt
4,746 roofs destroyed, 2,048 rebuilt
18,857 roofs partially damaged, 5,572 repaired
41 million pesos of construction materials have been sold to the population, and 15,838 persons received benefits
Severe damage to cane fields and mills, causing delays in beginning the harvest
Damage estimated at more than 90 million pesos
Net sales have surpassed 1.7 billion pesos
ELECTRICAL SYSTEM REPAIRS
253.8 km of sub-transmission lines
1,064.4 km of primary lines
838.4 secondary lines
1,679 poles erected or repositioned
287 transformers checked
288 sites damaged
199 repaired or rebuilt, representing 69.1%
174 sites damaged
114 repaired or rebuilt, representing 66%
361 sites damaged
232 repaired or rebuilt, representing 73.4%
The 18 hotels located in the Jardines del Rey resort area were all damaged and all are currently open and offering services, as other extra-hotel providers, including the marina, dolphinarium, beach snack bars, and the Rocarena climbing center, one of the few facilities was not affected. Some 7,400 rooms are in use of the 8,028 available in the resort area. The Jardines del Rey airport, the region's principal entry point for hotel guests, is totally restored.