Hurricane Beryl reached Category 4

Hurricane Beryl reached Category 4 on Sunday morning, the National Hurricane Center (CNH) in Miami announced in a special bulletin at 11:35 a.m., after an Armed Forces reconnaissance plane encountered winds of 130 mph on the system.

Hurricane watches were activated for Barbados, Saint Lucia, Grenada and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Data from NOAA and Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter aircraft indicates that Beryl has strengthened to an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane. “Maximum sustained winds are estimated to be 130 mph (215 km/h) with higher gusts,” the special bulletin says.

“It is a very serious situation that is emerging” for the northern Windward Islands, warned the National Hurricane Center in Miami, which said Beryl was expected to “bring life-threatening winds and storm surge (… .) like an extremely dangerous hurricane.”

Beryl Category 4
Hurricane Beryl will continue its path west-northwest and forecasts keep it away from southern Puerto Rico.(NHC/NOAA)

Beryl on Sunday became the first major hurricane — Category 3 or higher — documented east of the Lesser Antilles in June, according to Philip Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher at Colorado State University.

Beryl was only the third Category 3 storm on record in the Atlantic in June, following Audrey in 1957 and Alma in 1866, according to hurricane expert Michael Lowry. That was the case for Dennis and Emily in July 2005, Klotzbach said.

Early Sunday, before authorities upgraded its category, the storm was about 750 kilometers (465 miles) east-southeast of Barbados and was moving west at 33 kilometers per hour (21 miles per hour) with winds of 155 km/h (100 mph).

Two teams of hurricane hunters were on their way to the storm to gather more data on its intensity, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Beryl was expected to pass just south of Barbados early Monday and then enter the Caribbean Sea as a powerful hurricane heading toward Jamaica and later Mexico.

Forecasters warned of a dangerous storm surge of up to 3 meters (9 feet) in areas where Beryl made landfall, with up to 15 centimeters (6 inches) of water for Barbados and nearby islands.

Long lines formed at gas stations and grocery stores in Barbados and other islands as people rushed to prepare for a record-breaking storm that has rapidly gained strength from a tropical storm with 35 mph winds on Friday. to a category 1 hurricane on Saturday, and a category 3 on Sunday.

Warm waters fuel the system, and ocean heat content in the deep Atlantic is the highest on record for this time of year, according to Brian McNoldy, a tropical meteorology researcher at the University of Miami.

“We must remain vigilant,” Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said in a public address Saturday night. “We don’t want to endanger anyone’s life.”

There were thousands of people in Barbados to attend the final of the Twenty20 Cricket World Cup, considered the biggest event in cricket. Mottley noted that not all fans were able to leave on Sunday even though many were rushing to change their flights.

“Some of them have never been through a storm before,” she said. “We have plans to take care of them.”

Mottley said all businesses had to close by Sunday night and she warned that the airport would close for the night.

For his part, Saint Lucia Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre announced a national lockdown on Sunday night and said schools and businesses would remain closed on Monday.

“The preservation and protection of life is a priority,” he said.

Caribbean leaders are not only worried about Beryl, but also about a group of thunderstorms that are closely following its path and that have a 70% chance of becoming a tropical depression in the middle of next week.

Beryl is the second named storm in what is expected to be a very active hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30 in the Atlantic. A few days ago, Tropical Storm Alberto made landfall in northeastern Mexico, generating intense rains that caused the death of four people.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that the 2024 hurricane season will be much above average, with between 17 and 25 named storms. Up to 13 hurricanes and four hurricanes of category 3 or greater are expected.

An average Atlantic hurricane season produces 14 named storms, seven of them hurricanes and three hurricanes of Category 3 or higher.

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