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The priest who could predict hurricanes

Did you know that Fr. Benito Viñes, a priest in Cuba, helped predict hurricanes in the 19th century before computers, satellites, and radar could forecast severe weather?

Fr. Benito Viñes wasn’t just another priest. Born in Spain in 1837, he became a Jesuit priest and was sent to Havana, Cuba in 1870 to oversee the Meteorological Observatory at El Colegio Belén. Fr. Viñes was horrified by the devastation that hurricanes caused in Cuba, and wanted to figure out how to predict these coming disasters.

Fr. Viñes made incredible discoveries at the observatory. He spent countless hours observing the atmosphere. When a storm would come, he made weather observations every hour from 4 AM to 10 PM. After each storm, he would find areas in which the storm caused wreckage and study the aftermath to determine the storm’s strength and direction.

Through these observations, Fr. Viñes became an expert in hurricane detection. He noted how patterns of clouds and winds ahead of a storm could be used to predict a future hurricane and its potential movements. Based on where the clouds were moving, Fr. Vines could say where the hurricane was going and where it would make a northward turn.

Fr. Viñes’s discoveries saved many Cuban lives. In 1875, his first forecast was published in a local newspaper in Havana. He predicted an intense hurricane that ended up ravaging southern Cuba’s coast. Because of his forecast, many Cubans were able to prepare for the storm and preserve their lives.

The following year, Fr. Viñes predicted another major hurricane and, in the 1880s, his forecasts were being regularly published to every island in the Caribbean. Cubans began calling him the “Hurricane Priest.” He went on to establish a network of meteorological stations throughout the Caribbean and is considered the founder of tropical meteorology.

Despite his achievements, Fr. Viñes remained humble, committed to serving God through his talents. He once said, “I am desirous only of being of service…nor do I wish for any other recompense after that which I hope for from God, other than to be of use to my brethren and to do my little share for the advancement of science and the good of humanity.”

Fr. Viñes is one of many Christian scientists who demonstrate the perfect compatibility between faith and science. If you are struggling to understand the link between science and faith, a helpful guide is Dr. Verschuuren’s How Science Points to God, a comprehensive guide proving that science directs us to a divine Creator.

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