Heat, hurricanes and blackouts: Cubans brace for long summer after scorching May

Heat wave reaches record levels in Cuba

HAVANA (Reuters) - If May is any indication, Cuba is in for a long, hot summer, says Havana horse and buggy driver Osmel Valdes.

The 52-year-old Havana resident runs a transport service through the Cuban capital's sweltering streets. Shade is hard to come by so he lays a piece of scrap cardboard atop his horse between rides to give it respite.

"This month the heat has been terrible," he says.

Across the island nation, summer temperatures arrived nearly two months early, made worse by hours-long blackouts amid fuel shortages and power-plant failures. With night-time temperatures reaching 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit) and daytime temperatures soaring to 35 C, there is no escape, local residents say.

Meteorologist Ramon Perez, who works for Cuba's Climate Center, says May looks to be the warmest on the Caribbean island since 1951, when record-keeping began here.

"Cuba's climate is gradually becoming hotter and hotter, and especially our summers," Perez told Reuters.

Last summer was the hottest on record and this one is on track for similarly sweltering temperatures, a phenomenon the meteorologist attributes to global warming.

The growing frequency and intensity of severe weather - both on land and in oceans - is symptomatic of global, human-driven climate change that is fueling extremes, experts say.

The El Nino weather pattern, which began to weaken in March, has also fueled above-average land and sea temperatures across the globe.

Those conditions have left Cuba, which lies at the stormy intersection of the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, exceptionally exposed to a hurricane season predicted to be among the worst ever.

Cuba's Climate Center says there's an 80% chance at least one hurricane will strike the island this season.

U.S. government forecasters said last week up to seven major hurricanes may form in an "extraordinary" 2024 Atlantic hurricane season beginning June 1.

The sultry temperatures combine in Cuba with a devastating economic crisis.

The one-two punch has already exhausted Cubans like Nelson Jadier, a sweat-drenched 28-year-old who works for a restaurant wooing clients from the sidewalk.

"May has been quite a month for those of us who have to work on the street to put food on the table," Jadier said.

(Reporting by Alien Fernandez, Mario Fuentes and Anett Rios, editing by Dave Sherwood and Rod Nickel)