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HomeClimatePowerful Hurricane Beryl pummels Caribbean islands

Powerful Hurricane Beryl pummels Caribbean islands

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (AFP) — Hurricane Beryl brought devastating winds and heavy rain to several Caribbean islands on Monday as the earliest-ever Category 4 storm churned westward.

Carriacou Island, which is part of Grenada, took a direct hit on Monday morning from the storm’s “extremely dangerous eyewall”, with sustained winds at upwards of 150 miles (240 kilometers) per hour, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Nearby islands, including Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines, also experienced “catastrophic winds and life-threatening storm surge”, according to the NHC.

Video obtained by AFP from St George’s in Grenada showed heavy downpours, with trees buffeted by gusts.

Posting a video showing large waves, the Office of the Prime Minister of Grenada wrote on
Facebook that the tri-island State was “experiencing intense winds and damage”.

“This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation,” the NHC said. “Residents should not leave their shelter, and remain in place through the passage of these life-threatening conditions.”

The island’s meteorological agency downgraded a hurricane warning Monday afternoon to a wind advisory until 6:00 pm local time (2200 GMT).

Barbados seems to have “dodged a bullet”, Minister of Home Affairs and Information Wilfred Abrahams said in an online video, but “gusts are still coming, the storm-force winds are still coming”, he said.

The hurricane warning was also lifted in Tobago, the smaller of the two islands that make up Trinidad and Tobago, officials said.

Man in Baytown Pottersville, Roseau looking at the damage

Pottersville residents mopping up and accessing damage of Hurricane Beryl-Photos by Carlisle Jno Baptiste of Nature Isle News (NIN)

The storm prompted the cancellation of schools on Monday in several of the islands, while a meeting in Grenada this week of the Caribbean regional bloc Caricom was postponed.

Beryl is expected to remain a “powerful hurricane” as it continues churning westward, the NHC said, with tropical storm warnings or watches announced in Jamaica and in parts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

The NHC also warned the Cayman Islands and areas on the Yucatan Peninsula to monitor the storm’s progress.

Beryl became the first hurricane of the 2024 Atlantic season early on Saturday morning and quickly strengthened to Category 4.

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).

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.

Experts say that such a powerful storm forming this early in the Atlantic hurricane season — which runs from early June to late November — is extremely rare.

It is the first hurricane, since NHC records began, to reach the Category 4 level in June.

“Only five major (Category 3+) hurricanes have been recorded in the Atlantic before the first week of July,” hurricane expert Michael Lowry posted on the social media platform
X. Barbados and Dominica appeared to be spared from the worst of the storm but were still hit with high winds pelting rain and rough seas, as officials reported no injuries so far.

Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said that while Dominica suffered due to the passage of the first-named hurricane for the 2024 Atlantic Hurricane season, the damage is not comparable to what has been reported in Grenadines and Barbados.

“I could think we are okay,” he said, noting that this is the first hurricane on record so early in the hurricane season.

“Our lamentations and our advocacy to the developed world for climate change, the frequency and the ferocity of these storms are manifesting themselves,” Skerrit said, adding climate change is indeed a quinquennial threat to our survival”.

Skerrit said he has been in touch with the regional leaders and clearly what they “are saying to us is it could have been worse”.

“Thank God the main islands of St Vincent and Grenada were not impacted to the extent that was anticipated and of course Barbados was spared hurricane conditions,” he said.

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