By James Thompson
HOUSTON – Havana and Galveston have a lot in common. They are both sometimes on the same Hurricane paths and must deal with the same storms. That happened in 1900 and Cuban meteorologists at that time tried to warn Galveston about a horrific storm headed straight for the Texas coast. This paved the way for a special bond between Galveston and Cuba.
Galveston mayor Lyda Ann Thomas embarked on a four day trip on 4/22/09 to Havana to meet with Cuban officials about hurricane preparedness. This visit may help thaw U.S. – Cuban relations and build on the historic relationship between Galveston and Cuba.
The Center for International Policy organized and financed the trip and was supportive of establishing systems of communication between the U.S. and Cuba.
Ties between the two islands, Galveston and Cuba, date back to the monster storm of 1900 which killed 6,000 people in Galveston. According to the Houston Chronicle, “The National Weather Service, jealous of Cuba’s superior record of predicting storms, refused to let the Cubans use the U.S. military telegraph to warn Galveston, according to the book, Isaac’s Storm, an account of the 1900 storm.”
Cuba is currently world renowned for its excellent Hurricane preparedness. Former President Fidel Castro offered to send 1500 specially trained doctors to the Gulf Coast to treat survivors of Hurricane Katrina. His offer was refused by former President George W. Bush.
The timing for the consultation is appropriate given that Galveston and Cuba are twin survivors of Hurricane Ike which caused great devastation in the fall of 2008. Houston and Galveston are still struggling to recover from the storm and damaged buildings and houses are still very visible.
Many Americans realize that both Cuba and the U.S. can benefit from bilateral scientific cooperation.