Death toll climbs to 6 as Beryl is downgraded from a record-breaking Category 5 hurricane

ABC News

(NEW YORK) — As the death toll from Hurricane Beryl climbed to six on Tuesday, the cyclone was losing some steam as it closed in on Jamaica.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Beryl was downgraded to a Category 4 from a Category 5, but its maximum sustained winds remained dangerous at 155 mph.

Beryl is forecast to continue to weaken as it moves through the Caribbean Sea but is still expected to be a major hurricane when it reaches Jamaica on Wednesday.

The hurricane has killed three people in Cariacou in Grenada, where it made landfall on Monday, officials said. Another death from the storm was reported in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and two people were killed in northern Venezuela, officials in those countries said.

Overnight, Hurricane Beryl had strengthened into a Category 5 as it moved through the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, becoming the strongest July Atlantic hurricane on record.

Earlier Tuesday, Beryl was packing maximum winds of 165 mph. The hurricane surpassed the July record of 160 mph maximum winds produced by Hurricane Emily in 2005, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Hurricane Beryl is expected to reach Jamaica and is forecast to produce rainfall totals of 4 to 8 inches across the mountainous island country, with isolated amounts of up to 12 inches possible. This could trigger flash flooding in vulnerable areas.

The storm was shifting slightly north, taking it on a trajectory that would bring it dangerously close to the coast of Jamaica possibly Wednesday afternoon or evening with sustained maximum winds of 130 mph. A storm surge of up to 8 feet is expected and the hurricane is expected to dump up to a foot of rain.

The outer bands of Beryl could also impact southern portions of the Dominican Republic and Haiti late Tuesday and into Wednesday, potentially causing 2 to 6 inches of rain in those areas.

Residents of St. Vincent and the Grenadines were cleaning up Tuesday and assessing damage. Schools, homes, buildings and farmland sustained extensive hurricane damage, officials said. On Union Island, which is part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, authorities said 90% of the houses were either destroyed or severely damaged and the roof of the Union Island airport was ripped off by the hurricane’s buzzsaw-like winds. Heavy damage was also reported at Argyle International Airport on St. Vincent.

The one death reported in the Grenadines occurred on Bequia Island, officials said.

After touring the damaged areas on Tuesday, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told reporters that Beryl “left in its wake immense destruction.”

Sea surface temperatures in the eastern Caribbean Sea, where Beryl is currently located, are running warmer than average for this time of the year, more in line with where they would be at the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season rather than early July. This is providing ample fuel for Beryl’s extreme intensification.

The latest forecast calls for little change in strength overnight, with a gradual weakening trend commencing on Tuesday as the storm sweeps west-northwestward across the Caribbean Sea.

Beryl will continue to track across the Caribbean Sea throughout the week, closing in on Jamaica on Wednesday, likely weakening to a Category 2 storm by then. The center and worst impacts will likely pass south of the island; however, the latest forecast now has the center of the storm passing a little closer to Jamaica, so more intense rain, wind and storm surge impacts will be possible on the current track.

A weakening trend will continue through the rest of the week as Beryl sweeps across the Caribbean Sea and encounters less favorable atmospheric conditions.

Beryl will then aim for Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula by the end of the week. The current forecast calls for a second landfall sometime on Friday along the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Beyond that, the system will likely move into the southwestern Gulf of Mexico/Bay of Campeche, continuing to weaken, while taking aim at parts of eastern Mexico next weekend as a tropical storm.

Unfortunately, the same general area of eastern Mexico will likely now see impacts from all three of the first named storms of the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season. After being hit by Alberto and Tropical Storm Chris, Beryl will likely bring at least some impacts to the same region by later in the upcoming weekend.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print