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Category 5 Hurricane Beryl charges toward Jamaica

July 2, 2024

By Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN

(CNN) — Hurricane Beryl, now a potentially catastrophic Category 5 storm, has set its sights on Jamaica after leaving at least one person dead and inflicting ruin across entire islands in the Caribbean on Monday.

The storm is expected to bring life-threatening winds and storm surge to Jamaica on Wednesday and impact the Cayman Islands on Thursday, where a hurricane watch has been issued.

The storm continues to smash records as it kicks off an exceptionally early hurricane season as the earliest Category 5 hurricane – and only the second Atlantic storm of such strength to be recorded in July.

It took only minutes for Beryl to tear through Grenada on Monday, blasting through buildings and knocking out power and phone service to almost all of the island’s residents, the governor’s office said.

“In half an hour, Carriacou was flattened,” Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell said Monday.

A path of “immense destruction, pain (and) suffering” was torn through the neighboring nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where at least one person has been reported dead, said Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. Parts of the islands, including hospitals, have no electricity and others are without water.

About 90% of the homes on the nation’s Union Island are damaged or destroyed, Gonsalves said. Hundreds more homes and several schools, churches and government buildings in St. Vincent also sustained severe damage.

“Tomorrow we get up with our commitment and conviction to rebuild our lives and our families’ lives,” Gonsalves said Monday night.

Though Beryl is likely to fluctuate in strength in the coming days, it is expected to remain an “extremely dangerous major hurricane” – Category 3 or stronger – through mid-week, the hurricane center said.

The hurricane will continue packing strong winds, torrential rain and hazardous seas extending well beyond its center over much of the Caribbean. Even if Beryl doesn’t make landfall in Jamaica, its outer bands will bring significant impacts.

The latest on Beryl

• Jamaica braces for severe impacts: A hurricane warning is in place for Jamaica, where hurricane conditions will impact the island on Wednesday. Tropical storm-force winds are expected earlier in the day on Wednesday. Storm surge could raise water levels by as much as 3 to 5 feet above normal tide levels and rainfall of 4 to 8 inches with isolated totals up to 12 inches is forecast.

• Dominican Republic and Haiti under storm warnings: The southern coasts of Haiti and Dominican Republic remain under tropical storm warnings, with tropical storm conditions beginning Tuesday. Storm surge up to 3 feet is possible, and rainfall totals could reach 6 inches.

• Extended state of emergency in Grenada: The order has been extended until July 7 due to the severe damage wrought by the storm, said Neila K. Ettienne, spokesperson for the prime minister’s office. About 95% of the island of Grenada has lost power, she said. Telecommunications are also down and some individuals have lost internet service.

• St. Vincent and Grenadines rush to restore power: Local authorities are “working feverishly, urgently and with great focus to get electricity in certain places tonight,” Prime Minister Gonsalves said Monday. Many trees have collapsed on power lines. Even so, government buildings will reopen Tuesday and the prime minister urged business owners to open, if possible.

Huge blow to Barbados fishing industry: Though Barbados was spared from the brunt of the storm, large storm surge damaged numerous fishing vessels – a massive loss to the nation’s fishing industry. At least 20 vessels have sunken, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley said Monday. Some fishermen at the BridgetownFisheries Complex watched helplessly as violent waves slammed boats into each other or pulled them underwater, CNN affiliate CBC reports. “There’s nothing more we can do than stand and watch total destruction – our livelihood gone down the drain,” one resident told CBC.

Cricket team and fans stranded: Some cricket fans who had traveled to Barbados for the T20 World Cup – and even the winning Indian team itself – have been unable to leave the island as Hurricane Beryl forced the Grantley Adams International Airport to suspend operations. But the Indian team is likely to make its way home Tuesday after the airport’s planned reopening, Mottley said.

Kicking off a far from normal hurricane season

Beryl’s rapidly intensifying strength and early arrival are very rare for the Atlantic hurricane season and are a troubling indicator that this season will be far from normal in a world warming due to human-driven climate change.

The storm has already shattered numerous records. On Sunday it became the earliest major hurricane – defined as one that is Category 3 or higher – in the Atlantic in 58 years and the only one to reach Category 4 status in the month of June.

It is also the strongest known hurricane to pass through the southern Windward Islands, which lie at the eastern edge of the Caribbean Sea, according to data from NOAA that goes back to 1851.

The hurricane was able to churn to life because the ocean is as warm now as it would normally be at the peak of hurricane season, said Jim Kossin, a hurricane expert and science advisor at nonprofit First Street Foundation.

“Hurricanes don’t know what month it is, they only know what their ambient environment is,” Kossin told CNN. “Beryl is breaking records for the month of June because Beryl thinks it’s September.”

The ocean warm ocean temperatures fueling Beryl’s unprecedented strengthening “certainly have a human fingerprint on them,” Kossin said.

Forecasters have warned this hurricane season is gearing up to abnormally active. National Weather Service forecasters predict 17 to 25 named storms this season, with as many as 13 of those becoming hurricanes.

CNN’s Monica Garrett, Abel Alvarado, Brandon Miller, Sahar Akbarzai, Mary Gilbert, Hira Humayun, Robert Shackelford, Isaac Yee, Duarte Mendonca and Manveena Suri contributed to this report.

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