Hurricane Beryl intensifies into an ‘extremely dangerous’ Category 4 storm as it approaches the Caribbean

Beryl, the first hurricane of the 2024 Atlantic season, intensified to an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph Sunday, as it made its way toward the Windward Islands.

Beryl is now the earliest Category 4 hurricane on record in the Atlantic Ocean and the only Category 4 storm ever recorded in the month of June.

Tropical storm-force winds are expected to reach the Windward Islands late Sunday or early Monday.

The early timing of the season’s first hurricane is unusual, given the average date for the first hurricane is August 11.

As of 8 p.m. ET, Beryl was about 200 miles southeast of Barbados, heading west.

“A life-threatening storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 6 to 9 feet above normal tide levels in areas of onshore flow near where the eye makes landfall in the hurricane warning area,” the National Hurricane Center said, adding that the surge could bring large and destructive waves near the coast.

The hurricane is strengthening quickly, increasing 55 mph in the 24 hours before Sunday morning.

“We’re forecasting rapid intensification and expecting Beryl to become a major hurricane before it reaches places like Barbados and the Windward islands and continue to be a powerful hurricane as it moves into the eastern and central Caribbean as we go into the early portions of next week,” hurricane center Director Mike Brennan told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield on Saturday.

The hurricane center defines rapid intensification as an increase in maximum sustained wind speed of 35 mph or more in a 24-hour period.

Residents in Barbados are preparing for the potential impact of Beryl, which could be felt Sunday evening. - Ramon Espinosa/AP
Residents in Barbados are preparing for the potential impact of Beryl, which could be felt Sunday evening. - Ramon Espinosa/AP

Residents in places with hurricane warnings should be prepared for major storm impacts, Brennan said. Beryl brings a risk of heavy rainfall, destructive hurricane-force winds and dangerous storm surge and waves. Rainfall totals of 3 to 6 inches could bring localized flooding across the Windward Islands Sunday night and Monday, according to the center.

Hurricane warnings are in effect for Barbados, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadine Islands, Grenada and Tobago.

The hurricane is expected to produce 3 to 6 inches of rain across Barbados and the Windward Islands through Monday, the weather center said. Beryl’s passage near the Windward Islands of Grenada and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as a powerful Category 4 hurricane would make it the strongest storm there since Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

Tobago was placed under a red-level warning – the highest public alert issued by the Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service – early Sunday evening, the agency said. The warning instructs the island’s residents to take immediate action to protect their lives, livelihoods and property.

“Shelter in place or evacuate to a safe location if your home is unsafe or vulnerable to flooding or wind damage,” the agency said in a notice to the public. “Secure food, water and medicine for at least 7 days in waterproof containers. Outdoor drains should be clear and loose objects secured by now. Sandbags should be near all entrances to your home.”

The Dominican Republic’s government has issued a tropical storm watch from Punta Palenque westward to the border with Haiti ahead of Beryl, according to the hurricane center.

A tropical storm watch has also been issued for Haiti’s entire south coast, from the border of the Dominican Republic to Anse-d’Hainault, the center’s update stated. A tropical storm warning remains in effect for Martinique and a tropical storm watch for Dominica and Trinidad.

Beryl is forecast to be a Category 4 hurricane when it reaches the Windward Islands. - NOAA
Beryl is forecast to be a Category 4 hurricane when it reaches the Windward Islands. - NOAA

Communities prepare for hurricane

In Barbados, where the effects of Beryl are expected to be felt late Sunday, people across the island nation are making preparations.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley urged all non-essential businesses on the island to close by 8:30 p.m. Sunday.

The center of Beryl is expected to pass about 75 miles south of the island sometime early Monday morning, The Barbados Meteorological Services said Sunday. The storm could bring hurricane-force winds, heavy rainfall, flash flooding and some severe thunderstorm activity.

“The reality is that we do not want to put anybody’s life at risk in this country,” Mottley said in a video message Saturday night.

Barbados, Grenada and Saint Lucia will close some of their airports Sunday night as Beryl approaches.

Grenada’s Maurice Bishop International Airport will close at 6 p.m. and is tentatively set to reopen on Tuesday at 10 a.m., a spokesperson for the Grenada Airports Authority told CNN. He noted the hours could change depending on the situation and officials will provide updates on their social media account, Spice Weather 473.

In Barbados, the Grantley Adams International Airport announced it will close from 7 p.m. until further notice.

The Hewanorra International Airport and the George F. L. Charles Airport in Saint Lucia will also suspend operations, according to the tourism authority.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley urged non-essential businesses to close Sunday evening. - Ramon Espinosa/AP
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley urged non-essential businesses to close Sunday evening. - Ramon Espinosa/AP

Barbados is still hosting cricket fans from around the globe who traveled to the island for the T20 World Cup, Mottley noted.

“Our visitors are here with us,” she said. “Some of them are not due to leave until Monday and Tuesday, and some of them have never gone through a hurricane or a storm before.”

She urged residents to provide support for those who aren’t able to leave on Sunday, and to continue making hurricane preparations for themselves.

CNN affiliate CBC Barbados reported large crowds and long lines at a local grocery store just after 7 a.m. People were also seen filling up their gas tanks Saturday. Some people were still relaxing on the beach Sunday, CBC reported.

In Saint Lucia, a national shutdown will be in effect from 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre announced in a statement. Businesses and schools will remain closed on Monday, the prime minister said, urging the public to stay indoors until the all-clear is given.

“I encourage everyone to secure their property, identify and check on the vulnerable in your community and ensure that you have the necessary essentials to weather the approaching system,” Pierre said.

A satellite view of Beryl at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday. - CNN Stormbot
A satellite view of Beryl at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday. - CNN Stormbot

First hurricane of the season unusually early

Beryl is the earliest major hurricane – defined as one that is Category 3 or higher – in the Atlantic in 58 years. The storm’s rapid intensification is very unusual this early into hurricane season, according to Brennan. It’s rare for tropical systems to form in the central Atlantic east of the Lesser Antilles in June, particularly strong ones, with only a handful having done so, according to NOAA records.

Beryl isn’t just early for this hurricane season: It is now the Atlantic Ocean’s third-earliest major hurricane. The earliest was Hurricane Alma on June 8, 1966, followed by Hurricane Audrey, which reached major hurricane status on June 27, 1957.

The storm has already set the record for the easternmost hurricane to form in the Tropical Atlantic in June, beating a previous record set in 1933.

The central and eastern Atlantic traditionally become more active in August, in part because ocean temperatures have had time to warm and fuel developing systems.

This year, however, the Atlantic basin has seen above normal water temperatures and a lack of wind shear due to the transition from El Niño season to La Niña season, both of which are fuel for tropical development.

“Beryl has found an environment with very warm ocean waters for this time of year,” Brennan said.

Warmer waters in the Atlantic Basin have given tropical storms and hurricanes the opportunity to develop at a more rapid pace in an more eastward position, according to Brennan, allowing storms to become more powerful and therefore more destructive earlier on in hurricane season, which runs from June 1 until November 30.

“These are ocean water you’d normally see like in August or September, but now we’re seeing them in late June,” Brennan said. “It’s kind of opening up more of the deep tropical Atlantic for formation before we get to what would be the traditional peak of the hurricane season.”

Caribbean islands urge public to prepare ahead of hurricane

Authorities are urging residents to take precautionary measures, with several Caribbean nations under hurricane watches and warnings while Hurricane Beryl approaches and gains strength.

Officials in Barbados say the island is expected to feel the impact of the storm as early as late Sunday night. Its meteorological service is anticipating storm-force winds, 3 to 6 inches of rain, “hazardous” marine conditions and severe thunderstorms that may interrupt power utilities.

“All the regular preparations that we do for a hurricane is in full swing,” Minister of Home Affairs and Information Wilfred Abrahams said in a statement. “We have less than 48 hours until we expect to see the effects of this system impacting Barbados. Please use the time very wisely.”

A boarded-up building is seen in Bridgetown, Barbados, on Saturday. - Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images
A boarded-up building is seen in Bridgetown, Barbados, on Saturday. - Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves warns that the storm could hit the islands by Monday morning as a Category 2 hurricane. The meteorological service forecasts sustained winds of 74 to 110 mph or greater and rainfall of 4 to 6 inches.

“Kingstown is going to be flooded once this hurricane is on track,” Gonsalves said of the capital city. “Normally, two inches of rain – sustained rain – in a relatively short period of time will flood the city. Four inches will undoubtedly flood the city.”

In Saint Lucia, the government warns that the storm could bring “moderate to heavy showers, thunderstorms, and gusty winds” to the region. Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre is advising residents to make necessary preparations and review their family emergency plans.

In Grenada, the National Disaster Management Agency is also urging residents to prepare by having disaster supplies kits, trimming overhanging trees and branches, clearing drains and knowing where their emergency shelters are located.

The island’s officials declared a state of emergency Sunday evening ahead of the storm.

Beryl is expected to impact the island early Monday, Grenada’s Gov. General, Cecile La Grenade, said in a statement. All establishments will be closed except the police force, hospitals, prisons, waste disposal and ports.

Cars line up at a gas station Saturday in Bridgetown, Barbados, as hurricane Beryl approaches. - Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images
Cars line up at a gas station Saturday in Bridgetown, Barbados, as hurricane Beryl approaches. - Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

Tropical Depression Three forms in Gulf of Mexico

As the trend of an active early Atlantic hurricane season continues, a new tropical depression has formed over the southern Gulf of Mexico in the Bay of Campeche.

Tropical Depression Three is located about 185 miles east-southeast of Tuxpan, Mexico, and is moving west at 12 mph with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. It is expected to strengthen into a tropical storm before it moves onshore in eastern Mexico overnight on Sunday.

“The official intensity forecast calls for the system to become a tropical storm before landfall,” the hurricane center said. “Afterward, the circulation is very likely to dissipate over the mountainous terrain of eastern Mexico by Monday night.”

The government of Mexico has issued a tropical storm warning from Cabo Rojo south to Puerto Veracruz. Heavy rainfall totaling 4 to 8 inches across portions of eastern Mexico could result in flooding, with mudslides possible in areas of higher terrain, the center noted.

The next name on the list of Atlantic storm names is Chris.

NOAA predicts above-normal hurricane season

Systems forming this early in the summer in this part of the Atlantic is a sign of the hyperactive hurricane season to come, according to research from Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane expert and research scientist at Colorado State University. Normally, ocean temperatures aren’t warm enough in June and July to help tropical systems thrive.

National Weather Service forecasters predict 17 to 25 named storms this season, with eight to 13 of those becoming hurricanes, including four to seven major hurricanes.

“That’s well above average,” Brennan noted.

The weather service says that’s “due to a confluence of factors, including near-record warm ocean temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean, development of La Nina conditions in the Pacific, reduced Atlantic trade winds and less wind shear, all of which tend to favor tropical storm formation.”

CNN’s Allison Chinchar, Sara Smart, Amanda Musa, Peyton Galyean, Monica Garrett, Eric Zerkel, Brandon Miller, Marlon Sorto and Sandi Sidhu contributed to this report.

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