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Hurricane Beryl strengthens into ‘potentially catastrophic’ storm | Weather News

Hurricane Beryl strengthens into ‘potentially catastrophic’ storm | Weather News

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Beryl, the earliest Category 4 storm ever reported, is moving towards Jamaica after hitting the island of Carriacou in Grenada.

Hurricane Beryl has intensified into a “potentially catastrophic” Category 5 storm, the United States’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) said, as it headed towards Jamaica after bringing down power lines, damaging houses and flooding streets on other southeastern Caribbean islands.

Beryl, the earliest Category 4 storm ever reported, made landfall earlier on Monday on the island of Carriacou in Grenada.

“Beryl is now a potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane,” the NHS said in a bulletin at 11.00pm (03:00 GMT). “Fluctuations in strength are likely… but Beryl is expected to still be near major hurricane intensity” as it moves across the Caribbean.

Carriacou took a direct hit early in the day from the storm’s “extremely dangerous eyewall,” with sustained winds at upwards of 240km per hour (150 mph), the NHC said.

Nearby islands, including Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines, also experienced “catastrophic winds and life-threatening storm surge”, the hurricane centre said.

“In half an hour, Carriacou was flattened,” Grenada’s Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell told a news conference. He said one person had died, but authorities had not yet been able to assess the situation on the islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique, where communications had been largely cut off.

“We do hope there aren’t any other fatalities or any injuries,” he said. “But bear in mind the challenge we have in Carriacou and Petite Martinique.” Mitchell added that the government will send people early on Tuesday to evaluate the situation on the islands.

A woman runs to avoid incoming sea water on a street in St James, Barbados
The storm brought seawater surges that inundated some coastal communities in Barbados [Chandan Khanna/AFP]

Streets from St Lucia island south to Grenada were strewn with shoes, trees, downed power lines and other debris. Some banana trees were snapped in half by the force of the wind.

“Right now, I’m real heartbroken,” said Vichelle Clark King as she surveyed her sand and water-filled shop in the Barbadian capital of Bridgetown.

The storm is expected to pass near Jamaica on Wednesday, the Miami-based hurricane centre said.

Jamaica’s government issued a hurricane warning for the country, while tropical storm warnings were in effect for parts of the southern coasts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Climate change effect

The last strong hurricane to hit the southeast Caribbean was Hurricane Ivan 20 years ago, which killed dozens of people in Grenada.

Beryl became the first hurricane of the 2024 Atlantic season on Saturday and quickly strengthened to Category 4.

Experts say that such a powerful storm forming this early in the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from early June to late November, is extremely rare and that climate change probably contributed to its rapid formation.

Global warming has helped push temperatures in the North Atlantic to all-time highs, causing more surface water to evaporate, which in turn provides additional fuel for more intense hurricanes with higher wind speeds.

“Climate change is loading the dice for more intense hurricanes to form,” said Christopher Rozoff, an atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the US state of Colorado.

Andra Garner, a New Jersey-based meteorologist, noted that Beryl jumped from a Category 1 to a Category 4 storm in less than 10 hours.

Her research has shown that as water temperatures have risen over the last five decades, it has become more than twice as likely for storms to jump from weak storms to major hurricanes in less than 24 hours.

In May, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted above-normal hurricane activity in the Atlantic this year, also pointing to unseasonably high ocean temperatures.

At the Chillin’ restaurant in Kingston, waiter Welton Anderson said he felt calm despite the hurricane’s approach.

“Jamaicans wait until the last minute. The night before or in the morning, the panic sets in. It’s because we’re used to this,” he said.

Across other islands in the eastern Caribbean, residents had boarded up windows, stocked up on food and filled their cars with fuel as the storm drew closer.

Officials in Mexico also began to prepare for Beryl’s arrival later this week, with the federal government issuing a statement urging authorities and the population to exercise “extreme caution”.

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