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HAVANA – Hurricane Ian caused an island-wide blackout in Cuba following landfall Tuesday, leaving a path of destruction.
As Ian's winds howled across the island nation, the power began to falter across the capital city of Havana and streets emptied as most residents took refuge in anticipation of potential flooding and storm surge.
By Tuesday evening, Havana residents walked on the streets in complete darkness, illuminated only by the headlights of passing cars. The city's decrepit infrastructure often suffers even in storms much smaller than Ian, as buildings collapse and drainage is strained.
Cuban electricity provider Union Electrica said work is underway to restore service to the country's 11.3 million people.
"Right now, the electrical system is going through an exceptional condition," technical director of Cuba's Electricity Union Lazaro Guerra told Reuters. "There is complete zero in the system, this means there is no electrical service in all of the country. The system was already under strain with the passage of Hurricane Ian."
Guerra said the country had a large area in the western part of the country without any service, including Havana which is an important part of the service.
"Within those conditions, there were relatively high power transfers for the eastern zone from the units that were generating in the western zone and a failure occurred," he said.
Western Cuba had the brunt of the issues from Hurricane Ian since that is where the heaviest rains and strongest winds were.
"As a result, the big issues (damage) are in the western portion of Cuba and this will be the area that will have issues for many weeks," Everstream Analytics' chief meteorologist Jon Davis told FOX Weather. "The eastern sections of Cuba did not have any major issues via Ian."
The recovery in the east should be short-term in nature compared to the western sections," he adds.
The Nation Hurricane Center said the center of Ian made landfall just southwest of the town of La Coloma in the Pinar Del Rio Province of Cuba at 4:30 a.m. EDT. The maximum sustained winds of the Category 3 hurricane at landfall were estimated to be 125 mph.
Hurricane Ian rapidly intensified Wednesday morning and became a powerful Category 4 storm with winds of 155 mph as of 7 a.m. Eastern. A catastrophic storm surge is imminent between Sarasota and Fort Myers, Florida, as well as destructive winds that will likely trigger widespread power outages in the state.
The NHC warned of a life-threatening storm surge, hurricane-force winds, flash floods and possible mudslides in portions of western Cuba on Tuesday. Devastating wind damage was also expected where the core of Ian moved across western Cuba on Tuesday morning.
Millions of people have been told to evacuate the western Florida coast and other low-lying areas, and people who did not leave ahead of Hurricane Ian's expected landfall Wednesday are now being told to shelter in place during the long-duration storm as emergency services in some areas have been suspended until conditions improve.