Hurricane Beryl bears down on Caribbean

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Hurricane Beryl plowed toward the southeast Caribbean on Sunday as residents were urged to hurry and finish preparations ahead of the expected landfall overnight of the “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm -- the first ever recorded in June.

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned residents that Beryl -- currently churning in the Atlantic Ocean about 250 miles (400 kilometers) southeast of Barbados -- would remain an “extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane” when it reaches populated islands in the southeast Caribbean early Monday.

“All preparations should be rushed to completion today,” it said, urging residents to listen to local government and emergency officials.

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It said Beryl would bring “potentially catastrophic hurricane-force winds, a life-threatening storm surge, and damaging waves” to the Windward Islands, a cluster of islands including Martinique, Saint Lucia and Grenada, among others.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines as well as Grenada were at the highest risk of being at the center of the storm’s core beginning early Monday, the NHC said.

Barbados, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Tobago were all under hurricane warnings, the latest NHC advisory said, while tropical storm warnings or watches were in effect for Martinique and farther along the storm’s path, in southern Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

In the Barbadian capital of Bridgetown, cars were seen lined up at gas stations, while supermarkets and grocery stores were crowded with shoppers buying food, water and other supplies. Some households were already boarding up their properties.

Beryl became the first hurricane of the 2024 Atlantic season early Saturday morning and quickly strengthened to Category 4, the first ever to reach that level in the month of June, according to NHC records.

Devastating wind damage

A Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale is considered a major hurricane, and a Category 4 storm packs sustained winds of at least 130 miles per hour (209 kilometers per hour).

Beryl was packing maximum sustained winds that were estimated at 130 mph, the NHC said around 5:00 pm (2100 GMT) Sunday.

Beryl is expected to remain powerful as it moves across the Caribbean, the NHC said, warning residents and officials in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and the rest of the northwestern Caribbean to carefully monitor its progress.

Such a powerful storm forming this early in the Atlantic hurricane season -- which runs from early June to late November -- is extremely rare, experts said.

“Only five major (Category 3+) hurricanes have been recorded in the Atlantic before the first week of July. Beryl would be the sixth and earliest this far east in the tropical Atlantic,” hurricane expert Michael Lowry posted on social media platform X.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in late May that it expects this year to be an “extraordinary” hurricane season, with up to seven storms of Category 3 or higher.

The agency cited warm Atlantic Ocean temperatures and conditions related to the weather phenomenon La Nina in the Pacific for the expected increase in storms.

Extreme weather events including hurricanes have become more frequent and more devastating in recent years as a result of climate change.

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