HAVANA (Reuters) – Cubans bundled up in heavy jackets, hats and gloves and shuttered their homes on Monday as near-record cold and strong winds slammed the balmy Caribbean island more accustomed to bright sun and sultry trade winds.
The small town of Bainoa, east of Havana, felt temperatures plunge to just 3 degree Celsius (37.4°F) early Monday morning, following gusty winds that buffeted the island’s palm fringed shores much of the weekend.
“This is not normal,” said Havana resident Barbara Salgado, wearing a black scarf around her neck to ward off the cold. “Temperatures here (in winter) are always cool but they are never like this, it’s almost polar.”
The extreme weather prompted Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel to call on citizens to watch out for one another.
“Take care especially of our children and elderly,” he said on Twitter on Sunday.
Police shut down Havana’s shorefront boulevard, the Malecon, on Sunday and early Monday, and many of even the most stalwart fishermen had vacated their posts as towering, foam-topped rollers slammed the seawall, flooding streets and soaking passersby.
Jorge Sanchez, who strolled the street in a warm jacket, marveled at the cold.
“It’s truly been a long time since it’s been this cold. It’s unbelievable,” Sanchez said.
The same front brought unusual cold to Florida on Sunday morning, triggering a freeze outlook from the U.S. National Weather Service and the coldest temperatures in a decade across large swaths of the state.
Temperatures in Havana and throughout Cuba are expected to moderate gradually and hover at normal levels by week’s end, local meteorologists said.
(Reporting by Reuters TV and Dave Sherwood; Editing by Richard Chang)