Hurricane Beryl takes aim at southeastern Caribbean as a powerful Category 4 storm

Published 8:50 am Monday, July 1, 2024

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hurricane Beryl began pounding the southeast Caribbean on Monday as a powerful Category 4 storm after becoming the earliest storm of that strength to form in the Atlantic, fueled by record warm waters.

The storm was expected to make landfall in the Windward Islands late Monday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Hurricane warnings were in effect for Barbados, Grenada, Tobago and St. Vincent and the Grenadines as thousands of people hunkered down in homes and shelters. The last strong hurricane to hit the southeast Caribbean was Hurricane Ivan 20 years ago, which killed dozens of people in Grenada.

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“It’s going to be terrible,” Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said ahead of the storm and urged people to stay indoors “and wait this monster out.”

Beryl was located 60 miles (100 kilometers) east of Grenada on Monday morning, with maximum sustained winds of 130 miles (215 kilometers) per hour, and was moving west-northwest at 20 mph (31 kph). It was a compact storm, with hurricane-force winds extending 35 miles (55 kilometers) from its center.

The storm had not made landfall yet, but officials in Barbados already received more than a dozen reports of roof damage, fallen trees and downed electric posts across the island, said Kerry Hinds, emergency management director.

Once Beryl passes, drones will assess damage and speed up response, said Wilfred Abrahams, minister of home affairs and information. Before, it used to take two hours to receive information as crews fanned out across the island, versus seven minutes with drones, he noted.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for St. Lucia, Martinique and Trinidad. A tropical storm watch was issued for Haiti’s entire southern coast, and from Punta Palenque in the Dominican Republic west to the border with Haiti.

Forecasters warned of a life-threatening storm surge of up to 9 feet (3 meters) in areas where Beryl will make landfall, with 3 to 6 inches (7.6 to 15 centimeters) of rain for Barbados and nearby islands and possibly 10 inches in some areas (25 centimeters), especially in Grenada and the Grenadines.

“This is a very dangerous situation,” warned the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The storm was expected to weaken slightly over the Caribbean Sea on a path that would take it just south of Jamaica and later toward Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 1.

“It should be emphasized that Beryl is forecast to remain a significant hurricane during its entire trek across the Caribbean region,” the National Hurricane Center said.

Officials in some southeast Caribbean islands announced controlled shutdowns of electricity and warned of water outages ahead of the storm, urging people to seek shelter. They warned of landslides and flash flooding as they shuttered schools, airports and government offices.

Hours before the storm, Barbadian Michael Beckles said he feared the worst for his island despite witnessing how people were taking it seriously.

“As prepared as we can try to be, there are a lot of things that we can’t control,” he said. “Electricity probably will go. We’ll have issues with water. There are a lot of houses that are not ready for a storm like this.”