Live Updates: Hurricane Beryl, a Category 4 Storm, Speeds Toward Jamaica (2024)

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Judson Jones

Meteorologist

The storm is expected to pass over or near Jamaica on Wednesday.

Jamaica is bracing for a dangerous and difficult day on Wednesday as Hurricane Beryl, a Category 4 storm that swept through the Caribbean this week and killed at least seven people, is expected to pass near or over the island in the afternoon. Forecasters warned that strong winds and heavy rains may bring life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.

Beryl’s well-defined eye, the calm area typically devoid of clouds in the center of a hurricane, was filled in early Wednesday morning on weather satellite imagery, a sign that the major hurricane may continue to weaken from its Category 5 peak on Tuesday. Forecasters still face challenges predicting how much its intensity will decrease as it churns toward the Yucatán and how much it may restrengthen as it emerges into the Gulf of Mexico this weekend.

Here are the key things to know about the storm:

  • Dangerous storm surge: The storm surge accompanying Beryl is expected to raise water levels by up to nine feet along the coast of Jamaica as the storm passes over the island around Wednesday afternoon. The storm is expected to bring up to eight inches of rain across the island, with isolated amounts up to a foot.

  • Approaching the Cayman Islands: Beryl will approach the Cayman Islands overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning with hurricane conditions and two to four feet of storm surge.

  • A destructive path: Beryl devastated islands in Grenada, after making landfall earlier on Monday as a Category 4 hurricane. Another three people died in northern Venezuela, where the storm caused heavy rains and flooding.

  • Mexico is bracing: By the weekend, the storm is expected to emerge into the Gulf of Mexico, and it is quite possible it could restrengthen into a hurricane after passing over the Yucatán Peninsula on Friday. It’s expected to make another landfall somewhere along the western Gulf of Mexico on Sunday or Monday, but how strong and the exact path it takes is still uncertain. The Mexican government issued a hurricane watch for the peninsula’s east coast where hurricane-force winds and a three- to five-foot storm surge is possible Thursday into Friday.

  • Tropical storm warnings: A tropical storm warning was in effect for parts of Belize, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and a hurricane warning was in effect for Jamaica, where hurricane conditions were expected on Wednesday, the center said. The government of the Cayman Islands issued a hurricane warning on Tuesday afternoon for Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac.

  • Unusually early: Beryl is the earliest Category 5 hurricane on record in the Atlantic Ocean, according to Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist at Colorado State University who specializes in tropical cyclones. The previous record was set by Hurricane Emily on July 17, 2005, he said.

July 3, 2024, 1:33 p.m. ET

July 3, 2024, 1:33 p.m. ET

Daphne Ewing-Chow

Reporting from George Town, Grand Cayman

As Jamaica waits, Cayman Islands prepare to be next.

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As Jamaica braced for Hurricane Beryl to make landfall as a Category 4 storm on Wednesday, preparations were underway on the nearby Cayman Islands, where the storm was expected to move through Wednesday night.

Officials opened more than a dozen shelters and urged residents to secure outdoor furniture and garbage containers. Residents and tourists began evacuating from Owen Roberts International Airport in the capital, George Town, and local rotary clubs distributed sandbags. The Cayman Islands Humane Society appealed to the public, saying it had 50 dogs and cats in need of temporary homes in anticipation of the storm.

Premier Julianna O’Connor-Connolly, appearing on Radio Cayman on Wednesday morning, strongly urged residents to stay in place beginning at 6 p.m. until an all-clear was issued.

“Please walk around your neighborhood and be genuine and extend a neighborly hand,” she said. “This island was built on love. This is our chance and our opportunity to show the world.”

Governor Jane Owen said Britain was standing by to provide support to the British territory, including emergency response teams stationed in Miami who were prepared to travel if needed.

Tracey Rose, 60, who experienced Hurricane Ivan in 2004, was no stranger to preparing for big storms. Ms. Rose owns Cayman Riding School in Savannah on Grand Cayman and was working to ensure the safety of her animals — 36 horses, goats, donkeys and other livestock.

But that came with the difficult decision of letting her horses run loose. Ms. Rose said she anticipated the storm would blow off the stable roofs and setting them free would give them a better chance of survival.

Her animals were not her only concern. Many of Ms. Rose’s staff members are from Jamaica and were worried about family back home.

“I have to stay strong and remain positive for everyone around me, although inside my stomach is churning,” she said.

Maddy Harrop, 27, originally from Manchester, England, and now living in Camana Bay on Grand Cayman, was experiencing her first ever hurricane and was offering shelter to those whose homes might be vulnerable to damage or floods. She was checking on her supply of batteries and filling up buckets of water on Wednesday.

“The community here is incredibly resilient and supportive, which has been comforting during such a challenging time,” she said. “It’s a stark reminder of nature’s power and the importance of preparedness and community solidarity.”

Source: National Hurricane Center All times on the map are Eastern. Map shows probabilities of at least 5 percent. The forecast is for up to five days, with that time span starting up to three hours before the reported time that the storm reaches its latest location. Wind speed probability data is not available north of 60.25 degrees north latitude. By William B. Davis, John Keefe and Bea Malsky

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July 3, 2024, 1:16 p.m. ET

July 3, 2024, 1:16 p.m. ET

Judson Jones

Meteorologist

Beryl, at the very least, will give Jamaica a powerful glancing blow as the storm tracks close to the coast in the next few hours, becoming the strongest storm to approach the island in over a decade. The last major hurricane to pass within 70 miles of the Island was Hurricane Dean on Aug. 19, 2007, and it has been even longer since one made landfall.

July 3, 2024, 1:09 p.m. ET

July 3, 2024, 1:09 p.m. ET

Austyn Gaffney

NOAA planes fly through Hurricane Beryl to improve forecasts

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Live Updates: Hurricane Beryl, a Category 4 Storm, Speeds Toward Jamaica (5)

Hurricane Beryl, which devastated islands in Grenada on Tuesday and is now heading toward Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, has broken records as the earliest hurricane ever to reach Category 4 and Category 5 intensity in the Atlantic Basin. Wind speeds of at least 160 miles per hour were recorded on Monday.

“There are so many superlatives to describe Hurricane Beryl given the time of year, the location and the strength,” said Jonathan Zawislak, a meteorologist and flight director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Dr. Zawislak is a hurricane hunter, the title held by about 30 to 40 scientists, data crunchers and pilots based in Lakeland, Fla., who fly into hurricanes on three airplanes nicknamed Gonzo, Kermit and Miss Piggy. Both Kermit and Miss Piggy are equipped with Doppler radar on their bellies and tails that scientists use to create 3-D images of the storm.

Over the last three days, Dr. Zawislak and his team have taken off in Kermit from St. Croix, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and navigated through the swirling eyewall of Hurricane Beryl. In a Category 4 or 5 storm like Beryl, the eyewall — the ring of thunderstorms, heavy rain and dangerous winds surrounding the center of the storm — is loud and bumpy.

“It’s like being on a roller coaster in a carwash, except you don’t know when the ups and downs will occur, or what the next turn is,” Dr. Zawislak said on Tuesday as he prepared for his third Beryl reconnaissance flight.

But the eye of the storm is calm. During daytime flights, Dr. Zawislak can look out his bubble window from behind the co*ckpit and see a quiet bowl of cloud with clear, blue sky above.

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His job is to navigate through the chaos, finding the path for Kermit to fly between 8,000 to 10,000 feet while maintaining an airspeed of exactly 210 knots and flying the aircraft directly into the wind so they’re not pushed around.

Jonathan Shannon, a spokesman for NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center, said the goal of these flights, especially with hurricanes that change quickly, was to provide better data to better prepare for emergencies.

Since Dr. Zawislak’s first flight on Sunday, Hurricane Beryl experienced rapid intensification, which means its wind speeds have increased by 35 miles per hour or more over a 24-hour period. Part of the change came from an eyewall replacement cycle, or what Dr. Zawislak called the “ice skater effect”: the storm contracts like a figure skater pulling arms in tight while spinning. Pulling energy from warm ocean water, the storm replaces the old eye with a new one and reorganizes its outer wall.

As Earth’s atmosphere heats up, more storms are undergoing this kind of rapid intensification. A recent study showed that rapid intensification is now twice as likely for Atlantic hurricanes, at least partially because of human-caused climate change driven by the burning of fossil fuels.

Beryl is a disastrous start to what Hosmay Lopez, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, said was the “most bullish” forecast the agency has ever made for an Atlantic hurricane season. NOAA predicts an above-normal hurricane season with four to seven major storms clocking winds above 111 miles per hour.

The forecast is based on the change in the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, a natural climate pattern linked to warmer conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which is moving from a neutral state toward La Niña. The calm conditions produced by La Niña, combined with abnormally warm ocean temperatures, increase the likelihood of Atlantic hurricane formation.

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Live Updates: Hurricane Beryl, a Category 4 Storm, Speeds Toward Jamaica (6)

As they travel, hurricanes stir the surface of the ocean. They churn up colder water from deep below the surface, which can dilute the storm’s energy, like stirring a cup of coffee to cool it down. But along with exceptionally warm sea surface temperatures that have shattered records for more than a year, temperatures are also higher than normal at greater depths.

“In this case the cup of coffee is very tall, so it’s very difficult to mix up cold water from below, even though you have strong winds,” Dr. Lopez said. Warmer temperatures at a greater depth give the storm even more energy to pull from the ocean, he said.

Hurricane season, which lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30, has historically been quiet in June and July before picking up in August. Hurricane Beryl beat the previous record-holder for earliest Category 5 storm, Hurricane Emily in 2005, by about two weeks.

July 3, 2024, 1:07 p.m. ET

July 3, 2024, 1:07 p.m. ET

Judson Jones

Meteorologist

Another storm system is following in the wake of Beryl and will likely bring thunderstorms and showers to the islands recovering from the hurricane in the eastern Caribbean islands on Wednesday. There is only a 10 percent chance that the complex will turn into a more robust tropical cyclone over the next few days. If it does develop, it will be slow as it traverses the Caribbean Sea this weekend.

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July 3, 2024, 1:06 p.m. ET

July 3, 2024, 1:06 p.m. ET

Edgar Sandoval

Reporting from San Antonio

On Wednesday, cities across South Texas were bracing for potential impact of hurricane Beryl, with officials in the border cities like Brownsville distributing sandbags. But with the water levels of local reservoirs remaining at record lows amid a persistent drought, it was no secret that the region could also benefit from some rain, some area officials said.

July 3, 2024, 1:00 p.m. ET

July 3, 2024, 1:00 p.m. ET

Audra D. S. Burch

Reporting from Hollywood, Fla.

In South Florida, Caribbean diaspora worry about family and friends.

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Errol Evans knows something about the power and random nature of hurricanes. He was living in Jamaica when the island took a direct hit from Hurricane Gilbert, a Category 5 storm, in 1988. Four years later, he was living in Fort Lauderdale when Hurricane Andrew devastated the region.

“I know how quickly a hurricane can devastate a place, so I am very worried about what will happen to Jamaica,” said Mr. Evans, who grew up on the island and still has family and a home there. “The storm is broad enough to do some real damage.”

For days, Mr. Evans, 56, has been monitoring Beryl’s path and checking in with friends and family hourly in WhatsApp group chats. Islanders are scrambling to beat a Category 4 storm that has already killed at least seven people in the Southeast Caribbean and is expected to pass near or over the island this afternoon.

“The first priority of course is the safety of the people,” said Mr. Evans, a middle school principal who lives in Coral Springs, Fla. “Then my hope is the tourism industry isn’t devastated because that is how so many of our people make a living. All we can do now is pray.”

For many South Floridians, Hurricane Beryl is personal. The region is the home of a broad Caribbean population, one of the largest and the fastest growing.

Sean Guerrier, 41, a real estate adviser based in Delray Beach, has family in Jamaica, Panama, Barbados and Haiti. On Monday, he moved his aunt from the family farmhouse outside of Montego Bay to a local hotel.

“We did not want her to go through a storm alone,” said Mr. Guerrier. “All of us with any connection to the Caribbean are panicked right now. There has not been a storm of this magnitude in a long, long time.”

July 3, 2024, 12:20 p.m. ET

July 3, 2024, 12:20 p.m. ET

Lynsey Chutel

The destruction on Carriacou and Petite Martinique islands captured in satellite images.

As Hurricane Beryl churns toward Jamaica, the islands devastated in its path reckoned with the scale of the destruction on Wednesday.

In Grenada, satellite imagery showed flattened houses and buildings without roofs. Grenada’s islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique bore the brunt of the damage. Officials said roughly 98 percent of the islands’ buildings had been destroyed.

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In Argyle, a popular tourist town with dozens of vacation rentals in Carriacou, before-and-after images showed structures reduced to rubble.

The island’s docks, usually filled with boats, were empty. Along the northeast coastline of Carriacou, damage continued far inland, satellite imagery showed. With tourism as one of the island’s main sources of income, the airport and some hotels reopened as cleanup operations began, the Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association said.

Despite the extensive damage, so far the death toll appeared to be low. In Grenada, officials reported three deaths from the storm, two of them in Carriacou.

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Officials said the Category 4 storm had knocked out the power supply on the islands, while damaged roads had cut off some of Carriacou and Petite Martinique’s 6,000 residents. Nearly a third of Grenada’s water supply had been disrupted, according to the National Water and Sewerage Authority.

Christiaan Triebert contributed reporting.

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July 3, 2024, 12:05 p.m. ET

July 3, 2024, 12:05 p.m. ET

Edgar Sandoval

Reporting from San Antonio

Texas officials are asking people in coastal communities to remain vigilant of Beryl’s path in the coming days. The storm is forecast to continue moving west-northwest, putting Texas in the cone of uncertainty, the Texas Emergency Management said. “It’s important to stay weather aware, pay close attention to the rapidly changing forecasts, and don’t be caught without an emergency plan,” said Nim Kidd, the agency's chief.

July 3, 2024, 11:42 a.m. ET

July 3, 2024, 11:42 a.m. ET

Emiliano Rodríguez Mega

Reporting from Mexico City

Jamaica’s easternmost parishes have started to feel some of Beryl’s impacts, such as storm surges and landslides, Leskia Powell, the emergency services manager with the Jamaica Red Cross, told The New York Times. All of the more than 800 emergency shelters spread across the island have been activated, she said.

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July 3, 2024, 11:06 a.m. ET

July 3, 2024, 11:06 a.m. ET

Judson Jones

Meteorologist

The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center is out, and forecasters believe hurricane-force winds will spread across portions of Jamaica in the next several hours. Near the Category 4 storm’s center, winds are still howling with highly damaging speeds of 145 miles per hour and even higher gusts.

July 3, 2024, 11:06 a.m. ET

July 3, 2024, 11:06 a.m. ET

Emiliano Rodríguez Mega

Reporting from Mexico City

Some areas in Quintana Roo, a state on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula facing the Caribbean, have already been evacuated. “The goal is to take care of people,” Mara Lezama, the state’s governor, said in a radio interview on Wednesday. Beryl is expected to arrive there later this week, she added, somewhere between Tulum, a popular tourist town, and the city of Felipe Carrillo Puerto.

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July 3, 2024, 10:57 a.m. ET

July 3, 2024, 10:57 a.m. ET

Emiliano Rodríguez Mega

Reporting from Mexico City

For the time being, Hurricane Beryl “does not represent any risk” for Mexico, Laura Velázquez Alzúa, the country’s national coordinator of civil protection, said in a morning news conference on Wednesday. That is expected to change on Thursday, when heavy rains and gusts of wind reach the country.

July 3, 2024, 11:03 a.m. ET

July 3, 2024, 11:03 a.m. ET

Emiliano Rodríguez Mega

Reporting from Mexico City

The Category 4 storm is expected to make landfall in the southern state of Quintana Roo either late Thursday night or early Friday morning, she added. After crossing the Yucatán Peninsula, Beryl could make a second entry into Mexico through the states of Veracruz or Tamaulipas on Sunday or Monday.

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July 3, 2024, 10:53 a.m. ET

July 3, 2024, 10:53 a.m. ET

Judson Jones

Meteorologist

Today, Beryl’s eye has filled in with clouds, but yesterday, as hurricane hunters flew through the then Category 5 storm, you could see the stadium effect on the edge of the eye wall. Nearby, on the storm’s northern edge, a sail drone was capturing weather data on the stomach-turning ocean surface.

OVER THE CARIBBEAN - Inside the eye of Category 5 Hurricane #Beryl!
NOAA WP-3D Orion #NOAA43 “Miss Piggy” continues operations into Hurricane #Beryl to collect data for hurricane forecasting and research.
Visit https://t.co/3phpgKNx0q for the latest forecast and advisories.… pic.twitter.com/Ld3kjkcPh1

— NOAA Aircraft Operations Center (@NOAA_HurrHunter) July 2, 2024

Saildrone and @NOAA_AOML kicked off the 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Mission early this year, with Saildrone Explorer SD-1041 intercepting the northern edge of the then category 5 Hurricane Beryl about 100 nm south of Puerto Rico.@NOAAResearch pic.twitter.com/AN9620COhl

— Saildrone (@saildrone) July 2, 2024

July 3, 2024, 10:46 a.m. ET

July 3, 2024, 10:46 a.m. ET

Jovan Johnson

Reporting from Kingston, Jamaica

Jamaicans prepare for the arrival of Beryl.

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica declared the country a “disaster area” late Tuesday as the country prepared for Hurricane Beryl to pass near or over the island on Wednesday as a Category 4 storm.

The declaration, which gives local authorities enhanced powers to restrict movement and issue evacuation orders, will last for seven days, officials said. An island-wide curfew took effect at 6 a.m. Wednesday and will run until 6 p.m.

“This is to ensure the safety of everyone during the passage of the storm and prevent any movement with the intent to carry out criminal activity,” Mr. Holness said in a national address.

An evacuation order has been issued for low-lying and flood-prone areas.

On Wednesday morning, Jamaican streets were empty. Sections of Jamaica’s capital, Kingston, and several parishes reported heavy rainfall with moderate wind linked to the outer bands of the fast-approaching hurricane.

More communities along Jamaica’s south and eastern coasts were reporting flooding. Storm surges in the Old Harbour Bay fishing village in St. Catherine parish were of particular concern. Emergency officials there scurried to evacuate a 105-year-old woman who was reportedly stranded in the area, the Spanish Town mayor Norman Scott said.

The authorities were also facing pushback from residents who refused to leave the historic town of Port Royal, located near the now shuttered Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston. “The adults have said that they are not leaving,” said Andrew Swaby, the mayor of Kingston.

Dozens of vendors have also remained in the country’s main market district in downtown Kingston.

A female vendor told the local station Television Jamaica that she was not afraid of the hurricane and had to stay to secure her goods.

Mr. Holness told a local television station Wednesday morning that the government is prepared and recovery plans are in place.

On Tuesday, the streets of Kingston were filled with people hurrying to gather last-minute supplies. The bustling supermarkets were crammed with patrons, and many people waited in long lines at A.T.M.s.

“It’s better to have it and don’t want it, than want it and don’t have it,” said Saeed Pottinger, 37, who was getting extra medication, food and other supplies for his mother.

Jamaica’s three international airports closed Tuesday night, the airports’ operators announced.

The country’s main electricity provider, Jamaica Public Service, has advised Jamaicans to be prepared for power outages. Mr. Holness urged citizens in low-lying areas, especially along the southern coast, where Beryl is expected to pass, to evacuate.

Jamaica’s agency of water and wastewater services reported that several of its systems were down because of power outages affecting the electricity provider.

As soon as the hurricane passes, Mr. Holness said, security forces “will be fully mobilized to maintain public order and assist with disaster relief,” according to The Associated Press. “The security forces have developed strategic plans to counter any potential threat of looting or any other opportunistic crimes,” he said.

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July 3, 2024, 10:29 a.m. ET

July 3, 2024, 10:29 a.m. ET

Judson Jones

Meteorologist

Beryl’s outer rain bands — bands of heavy precipitation on the periphery of the storm that spiral out like a pinwheel — are lashing Jamaica. Weather conditions will worsen for the next several hours as the storm’s core moves ever closer to the southern coast.

July 3, 2024, 2:20 a.m. ET

July 3, 2024, 2:20 a.m. ET

Emiliano Rodríguez Mega

Reporting from Mexico City

Hurricane Beryl caused ‘unimaginable’ damage in Grenada, its leader says.

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As Hurricane Beryl headed toward Jamaica and the Cayman Islands early Wednesday as a powerful Category 4 storm, a clearer picture emerged of the devastation it had caused on two small islands in Grenada, with that country’s leader calling the destruction “unimaginable” and “total.”

“We have to rebuild from the ground up,” Grenada’s prime minister, Dickon Mitchell, said at a briefing after visiting the islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique, which were ravaged by Beryl on Monday.

Officials said about 98 percent of the buildings on the islands, where about 6,000 people live, had been damaged or destroyed, including Carriacou’s main health facility, the Princess Royal Hospital, and its airport and marinas. As of Tuesday night, there was no electricity on either island, and communications were down. Crops had been ravaged, and fallen trees and utility poles littered the streets.

The natural environment also took a beating. “There is literally no vegetation left anywhere on the island of Carriacou, the mangroves are totally destroyed,” Mr. Mitchell said.

But the death toll appeared to be low. Officials have reported three deaths from the storm in Grenada, two of them in Carriacou. Another was reported in the Caribbean country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro said on Tuesday that three deaths had been reported in that country’s north.

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Beryl, which peaked as a Category 5 storm on Tuesday morning, is still expected to be a major hurricane when it reaches Jamaica and the Cayman Islands on Wednesday, either hitting them directly or coming close. Prime Minister Andrew Holness addressed the Jamaican public on Tuesday night, imposing a 12-hour curfew to start at 6 a.m. An evacuation order was issued for low-lying areas.

In the Caymans, a hardware store packed with shoppers was rationing sandbags, and residents with plenty of hurricane experience were bracing for Beryl.

“We get waves and wind, and we make the best of it, but this — this is going to be on a whole other level,” said Luigi Moxam, the owner of Cayman Cabana, a waterfront restaurant in George Town, the Caymans’ capital. He said he had spent Tuesday morning “peeling away the restaurant to skeletal form.”

Mr. Mitchell said that many people on Grenada’s main island had lost their homes, but that the destruction was far worse on Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Officials were still trying to assess the extent of the damage on the two islands, particularly to the power grid and water supply.

Grenada, like other Caribbean nations, gets most of its drinking water from rainwater harvesting, involving drains on roofs that lead to storage vessels. Terrence Smith, the head of the country’s water agency, said the storm damage was not expected to immediately cause a life-threatening shortage on Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

“We believe that is very unlikely,” Mr. Smith said on Tuesday. “If it is correct that most houses have lost their roofs, then they can’t harvest rainwater anymore. But many of these households have weeks of storage.”

Still, a recent dry spell has led many households on the islands to depend on desalination plants for water, and Mr. Smith said the plants on Carriacou and Petite Martinique were “probably negatively impacted by the hurricane.” That system had been under strain well before the hurricane arrived.

Beryl has set records as the first Category 4 hurricane, and then the first Category 5 storm, to form in the Atlantic Ocean so early in the season. A recent study found that with ocean temperatures rising, hurricanes in the Atlantic have become likelier to grow from a weak storm into a major one of Category 3 or higher within just 24 hours.

Mr. Mitchell called Beryl a direct result of global warming, saying that Grenada and countries like it were on the frontline of the climate crisis. “We are no longer prepared to accept that it’s OK for us to constantly suffer significant, clearly demonstrated loss and damage arising from climatic events and be expected to rebuild year after year while the countries that are responsible for creating this situation — and exacerbating this situation — sit idly by,” he said.

Jovan Johnson contributed reporting from Kingston, Jamaica, and Daphne Ewing-Chow from Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands.

July 2, 2024, 1:28 p.m. ET

July 2, 2024, 1:28 p.m. ET

The New York Times

In photos and video

The hurricane roars through the Caribbean.

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Hurricane Beryl moved toward Jamaica on Wednesday after carving a path of destruction through the Caribbean, killing at least seven people, destroying houses and snapping trees in half.

The hurricane first hit Carriacou, a small island north of Grenada, on Monday morning where it flattened the island in just half an hour, while also causing extreme damage to neighboring Petite Martinique. Rescue crews departed Grenada on Tuesday morning to deliver supplies to both islands and assess the destruction.

Carriacou is known for its coral reefs and diving spots, while people on Petite Martinique are mostly involved in fishing and boat building. The two islands have a combined population of roughly 6,000, according to government data.

On Wednesday morning, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands braced themselves as Beryl, a Category 4, headed its way.

The storm was an anomaly in what has already been an unusually busy storm season, which extends until the end of November. When it developed into a Category 4 storm on Sunday, it was the third major hurricane ever in the Atlantic Ocean in June — and the first time a Category 4 materialized this early there in the season.

The storm continued to set records, becoming the first ever Atlantic storm to grow into a Category 5 this early in the season, according to Philip Klotzbach, a Colorado State University meteorologist who specializes in tropical cyclones.

The storm’s rapid strengthening was a direct result of above-average sea surface temperatures, as well as a harbinger of what might be coming this hurricane season. A hurricane that intensifies faster can be more dangerous because it gives people in areas projected to be affected less time to prepare and evacuate.

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A damaged house missing its roof in Sauteurs, Grenada, on Tuesday.

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Live Updates: Hurricane Beryl, a Category 4 Storm, Speeds Toward Jamaica (22)

Waves crashing on the coast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

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Workers chopping an uprooted tree in St. James, Barbados, on Tuesday.

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A satellite image showing Hurricane Beryl hurtling toward Jamaica on Tuesday.

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Live Updates: Hurricane Beryl, a Category 4 Storm, Speeds Toward Jamaica (23)

A boat beached on the shores of St. Vincent on Monday.

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Damage in Soufrière, St. Lucia, on Monday.

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People getting a trailer to move a boat from the street near Saint James, Barbados.

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Damaged outdoor furniture in Christ Church, Barbados.

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Live Updates: Hurricane Beryl, a Category 4 Storm, Speeds Toward Jamaica (24)

Streets in Bay Garden Oistins, Barbados, were covered with debris on Monday.

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Fishing vessels damaged after Hurricane Beryl passed through the Bridgetown Fisheries in Barbados.

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Lines at a grocery store on Monday in Kingston, Jamaica.

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Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on Monday.

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The airport in Piarco, Trinidad and Tobago, on Monday where a flight board showed several cancellations and a leak in the roof closed off a portion of the floor.

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Live Updates: Hurricane Beryl, a Category 4 Storm, Speeds Toward Jamaica (25)

Strong winds and waves crashing onto Dover Beach in Christ Church, Barbados.

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July 1, 2024, 1:02 p.m. ET

July 1, 2024, 1:02 p.m. ET

Judson Jones

Judson Jones is a meteorologist and a reporter for The Times.

Why Beryl is a bad sign for this year’s hurricane season.

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Over the course of a few short days, Hurricane Beryl rapidly intensified from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane, setting records for the earliest point in a season that a storm has grown so big.

This quick escalation was a direct result of the above-average sea surface temperatures as well as a harbinger of what is to come this hurricane season.

“This early-season storm activity is breaking records that were set in 1933 and 2005, two of the busiest Atlantic hurricane seasons on record,” said Philip Klotzbach, an expert in seasonal hurricane forecasts at Colorado State University.

Last fall, a study in the journal Scientific Reports found that Atlantic hurricanes from 2001 to 2020 were twice as likely to grow from a weaker storm into a hurricane of Category 3 or higher within 24 hours than they were from 1971 to 1990. The study added to a growing body of evidence that rapidly developing major hurricanes were becoming more likely.

Andra Garner, an assistant professor of environmental science at Rowan University in New Jersey and the author of the paper, called the findings an “urgent warning.”

A hurricane that intensifies faster can be more dangerous, as it allows less time for people in areas projected to be affected to prepare and evacuate. Late last October, Hurricane Otis moved up by multiple categories in just one day before slamming into Acapulco, Mexico, as a Category 5 hurricane that killed at least 52 people.

In Beryl’s case, it became a tropical storm late Friday night, meaning it had sustained wind speeds of more than 39 miles per hour. On Saturday afternoon, it became the season’s first hurricane, a Category 1, with wind speeds of 75 m.p.h. On Sunday morning, it became the earliest Category 4 hurricane on record, with wind speeds of more than 130 m.p.h.

And on Monday night, after it had devastated Carriacou, a small island north of Grenada, Beryl became a Category 5 hurricane, with wind speeds of more than 160 m.p.h.

It is no surprise to meteorologists that Beryl was able to strengthen so quickly and behave more like a peak-season storm. Hurricanes suck up warm ocean water and use it as fuel. In an optimal weather environment like this past weekend’s, the ample heat energy rapidly increases the storm’s intensity.

Abundantly warm ocean temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean have been a concern since last season’s overly active year. On Friday, Beryl formed around ocean temperatures that were warmer than they were this time last year, and are more akin to what they typically would be during the peak of hurricane season, in September. Normally, early-season activity is limited in this portion of the Atlantic because those ocean temperatures are relatively cool.

But now they are hot. That helped Beryl strengthen into the earliest Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic, according to Dr. Klotzbach. Previously, Hurricane Emily held the record for the earliest Category 5 hurricane, reaching that strength on July 16, 2005.

Because of the ocean’s heat, Beryl formed farther east in the Atlantic than any storm has in the month of June, breaking a record set by an unnamed storm formed east of the Caribbean on June 24, 1933.

The warm ocean temperature is one of the main reasons experts have been predicting an extremely active hurricane season this year. It is also why forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who predict there will be 8 to 13 hurricanes this season, believe about half of those will reach major hurricane status, as Beryl did this weekend.

Usually, early-season activity doesn’t have much bearing on the rest of the season’s activity. But, in June, when that activity occurs as far east as Beryl did, Dr. Klotzbach says, “it tends to be a harbinger of a very busy season.”

May 23, 2024, 10:57 a.m. ET

May 23, 2024, 10:57 a.m. ET

Judson Jones

Judson Jones is a meteorologist and reporter for The Times.

NOAA predicts an abnormally busy hurricane season.

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Live Updates: Hurricane Beryl, a Category 4 Storm, Speeds Toward Jamaica (28)

In yet another dire warning about the coming Atlantic hurricane season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday predicted that this year could see between 17 to 25 named tropical cyclones, the most it has ever forecast in May for the Atlantic Ocean.

The NOAA forecast joins more than a dozen other recent projections from experts at universities, private companies and other government agencies that have predicted a likelihood of 14 or more named storms this season; many were calling for well over 20.

Rick Spinrad, the NOAA administrator, said at a news conference on Thursday morning that the agency’s forecasters believed eight to 13 of the named storms could become hurricanes, meaning they would include winds of at least 74 miles per hour. Those could include four to seven major hurricanes — Category 3 or higher — with winds of at least 111 m.p.h.

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According to NOAA, there is an 85 percent chance of an above-normal season and a 10 percent chance of a near-normal season, with a 5 percent chance of a below-normal season. An average Atlantic hurricane season has 14 named storms, including seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

While it only takes one storm in a below-average season to devastate a community, having conditions conducive to almost twice the average amount of storms makes it more likely that North America will experience a tropical storm or, worse, a major hurricane.

There are 21 entries on this year’s official list of storm names, from Alberto to William. If that list is exhausted, the National Weather Service moves on to an alternative list of names, something it’s only had to do twice in its history.

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NOAA typically issues a May forecast and then an updated forecast in August. Before Thursday, NOAA’s most significant May forecast was in 2010, when it forecast 14 to 23 named storms; that year, 19 ultimately formed before the end of the season. In 2020, the May forecast was for 13 to 19 named storms, but an updated forecast for August was even higher, with 19 to 25 named storms. That season ultimately saw 30 named storms.

The hurricane outlooks this year have been notably aggressive because of the unprecedented conditions expected.

Preparing for Hurricane Season

As forecasters look toward the official start of the season on June 1, they see combined circ*mstances that have never occurred in records dating to the mid-1800s: record warm water temperatures in the Atlantic and the potential formation of La Niña weather pattern.

Brian McNoldy, a researcher at the University of Miami who specializes in hurricane formation, said that without a previous example involving such conditions, forecasters trying to predict the season ahead could only extrapolate from previous outliers.

Experts are concerned by warm ocean temperatures.

“I think all systems are go for a hyperactive season,” said Phil Klotzbach, an expert in seasonal hurricane forecasts at Colorado State University.

The critical area of the Atlantic Ocean where hurricanes form is already abnormally warm just ahead of the start of the season. Benjamin Kirtman, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Miami, earlier described the conditions as “unprecedented,” “alarming” and an “out-of-bounds anomaly.”

Daily sea surface temperatures in the main area where hurricanes form

Source: Climate Reanalyzer, Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine, based on data from NOAA Optimum Interpolation Sea Surface Temperature (OISST) Note: Data through May 20, 2024. By The New York Times

Over the past century, those temperatures have increased gradually. But last year, with an intensity that unnerved climate scientists, the waters warmed even more rapidly in a region of the Atlantic where most hurricanes form. This region, from West Africa to Central America, is hotter this year than it was before the start of last year’s hurricane season, which produced 20 named storms.

The current temperatures in the Atlantic are concerning because they mean the ocean is poised to provide additional fuel to any storm that forms. Even if the surface suddenly cools, the temperatures below the surface, which are also remarkably above average, are expected to reheat the surface temperatures rapidly.

These warmer temperatures can give energy to the formation of storms — and help sustain them. Sometimes, if no other atmospheric conditions hinder a storm’s growth, they can intensify more rapidly than usual, jumping hurricane categories in less than a day.

Combined with the rapidly subsiding El Niño weather pattern in early May, the temperatures are leading to mounting confidence among forecasting experts that there will be an exceptionally high number of storms this hurricane season.

A parting El Niño and a likely La Niña are increasing confidence in the forecasts.

El Niño is caused by changing ocean temperatures in the Pacific and affects weather patterns globally. When it is strong, it typically thwarts the development and growth of storms. Last year, the warm ocean temperatures in the Atlantic blunted El Niño’s effect to do that. If El Niño subsides, as forecasters expect, there won’t be much to blunt the season this time.

Forecasters specializing in the ebbs and flows of El Niño, including Michelle L’Heureux with the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, are pretty confident not only that El Niño will subside but that there is a high likelihood — 77 percent — that La Niña will form during the peak of hurricane season.

The system could throw a curve ball, she said, but at this point in the spring, things are evolving as forecasters have anticipated. A La Niña weather pattern would already have them looking toward an above-average year. The possibility of a La Niña, combined with record sea surface temperatures this hurricane season, is expected to create a robust environment this year for storms to form and intensify.

Live Updates: Hurricane Beryl, a Category 4 Storm, Speeds Toward Jamaica (2024)
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