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Beryl, now a hurricane, to bring ‘life-threatening winds,’ officials warn

A hurricane warning was issued for Barbados, and several other Caribbean islands were under a hurricane watch, including St. Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada.
Last Updated : 30 June 2024, 03:10 IST

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Tropical Storm Beryl officially became Hurricane Beryl on Saturday afternoon, an unusual early-season storm that strengthened since its formation late Friday and that forecasters warned could rapidly intensify.

Hurricane Beryl, the first hurricane of the 2024 season, is expected to bring “life-threatening winds and storm surge” to the Windward Islands, southeast of Puerto Rico and north of Venezuela, as it continues moving west, the National Hurricane Center said Saturday.

The winds could be up to 30 per cent stronger across the higher elevations of the islands, forecasters said.

A hurricane warning was issued for Barbados, and several other Caribbean islands were under a hurricane watch, including St. Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada. The islands of Martinique, Dominica and Tobago were under a tropical storm watch.

“Continued steady to rapid strengthening is forecast, and Beryl is expected to become a dangerous major hurricane before it reaches the Windward Islands,” the hurricane center said Saturday night.

Some computer weather models suggest that the storm could intensify into a major hurricane, which is a Category 3 or higher.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration records, only three storms have reached Category 3 status in the north Atlantic Ocean this early in the season: Alma in 1966, Audrey in 1957 and an unnamed storm in 1916.

All made landfall on the U.S. coastline in the Gulf of Mexico: Alma near St. Marks, Florida; Audrey near Port Arthur, Texas; and the 1916 storm near Mobile, Alabama.

The system became Tropical Storm Beryl late Friday when its sustained winds reached 39 mph. At 74 mph, a storm becomes a hurricane.

A named storm this far east in the Atlantic is unusual for June, John Cangialosi, a forecaster with the hurricane center, wrote in an advisory Friday.

“There have only been a few storms in history that have formed over the central or eastern tropical Atlantic this early in the year,” he wrote.

Here are key things to know about the storm.

— Swells created by Beryl are expected to reach the Windward and southern Leeward Islands by late Sunday, forecasters said, and likely cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

— The storm is expected to cross the islands of the eastern Caribbean as early as Sunday night before traversing the central Caribbean Sea through the middle of next week.

— Three to six inches of rain, hurricane-force winds and dangerous storm surge are possible in the eastern Caribbean Islands, including Barbados, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Sunday into Monday.

Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said 2 inches of consistent rain usually results in flooding in the capital of Kingstown.

“Four inches will undoubtedly flood the city,” he said. “You do not require any imagination as to how we are going to have to tackle that from the standpoint of the business of government and ordinary life and living and for the opening of businesses on Monday.”

Gladwyn Taylor, who runs a seasonal restaurant in Port Elizabeth, Bequia, an island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said Saturday that people there were not thinking much about the hurricane.

Taylor said that while there are many well-built and modern homes made with concrete, there are still old structures that might not withstand the powerful winds Beryl is expected to unleash.

He said he was taking a wait-and-see approach. “Tomorrow I’ll get out and do some securing of things,” he said.

Forecasters have warned that the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season could be much more active than usual.

In late May, NOAA predicted 17 to 25 named storms this year, an “above-normal” number and a prediction in line with more than a dozen forecasts earlier in the year from experts at universities, private companies and government agencies.

Hurricane seasons produce 14 named storms on average.

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Published 30 June 2024, 03:10 IST

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