Hurricane Beryl hits Category 5, breaks record as earliest ever to hit max strength (2024)

Editor's note: This page reflects news on Hurricane Beryl from Monday, July 1. For the latest news on Hurricane Beryl, which is now a Category 5 storm, please follow USA TODAY's live updates on the storm for Tuesday, July 2.

Hurricane Beryl became the earliest Category 5 hurricane on record Monday night when its winds increased to 160 mph as it barreled through the southeastern Caribbean, the National Hurricane Center said.

Beryl shatters the old record by more than two weeks — Hurricane Emily became a Category 5 on July 17, 2005. Forecasters fear that the historically busy hurricane season in 2005 could be repeated this year.

Hurricane hunter reconnaissance flights into the storm Monday found continued strengthening.As of 11 p.m. Monday, Beryl's winds had climbed from 155 mph to 160 mph — becoming a "potentially catastrophic category 5 hurricane," according to the hurricane center.

Beryl's central barometric pressure had dropped to 938 millibars but the hurricane center expects its Category 5 status to be brief, forecasting a steady decline in windspeed with the winds steadily declining.

The hurricane was about 510 miles east-southeast of Isla Beata in the Dominican Republic and traveling west-northwest at 22 mph, the hurricane center said. Its center was on track to move across the southeastern and central Caribbean Sea into Tuesday and is expected to pass near Jamaica on Wednesday.

Beryl is forecast to weaken after reaching Jamaica, according to the hurricane center, but it's expected to remain a hurricane in the northwestern Caribbean.

Beryl tore through the Windward Islands on Monday after making landfall on Grenada’s Carriacou Island as a Category 4 storm at 11:10 a.m., according to the hurricane center. The hurricane had 150 mph winds when its eye made landfall on Carriacou.

Power was out throughout Grenada and residents were advised to shelter in place as Beryl brought down power lines and tore away roofs. The last major hurricane to reach the country's shores was Ivan, which caused widespread devastation with winds of more than 135 mph in 2004.

The government of Jamaica has issued a hurricane warning for the island, according to the hurricane center.

From the island of St. Lucia south to Grenada, streets were littered with parts of trees and personal effects, the Associated Press reported. The lack of electricity and communications outages in the region made it difficult to get accurate reports on injuries and property damage.

The historic Beryl reached tropical storm status Friday before becoming a major hurricane Sunday as it raced toward the Caribbean with winds of 130 mph − a gain of 95 mph in just 42½ hours. Record-warm ocean temperatures led to rapid intensification, a phenomenon that occurs when a storm strengthens by at least 35 mph in a 24-hour period.

The storm became the earliest Category 4 hurricane on record and the first June major hurricane east of the Lesser Antilles. Beryl hit Category 4 status Sunday, but its winds decreased slightly overnight, making it a Category 3 storm Monday. It strengthened again early Monday.

Hurricane Beryl storm tracker:See latest details, projected path of Category 3 storm

Developments:

∎ At least one death was reported in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said late Monday, adding that there may be more fatalities. Gonsalves noted the widespread devastation in the area with hundreds of homes and buildings damaged or destroyed.

∎ In a statement on Facebook, St. Lucia's Prime Minister Philip Pierre said that the island experienced "strong winds and torrential rains that resulted in flooding, land slippage and property destruction." He added that Beryl "could have been even more severe on our country but we were spared this time from possible disaster."

∎ Storm surge in the Windward Islands could reach 6 to 9 feet above normal tide levels and bring "large, destructive waves" to the coast, the National Hurricane Center said.

∎ Rainfall could cause flooding and is expected to dump 3 to 6 inches in Barbados and the Windward Islands. Up to 10 inches are possible in isolated locations, especially in the Grenadines.

∎ After Beryl's center moves across the Windward Islands on Monday, the storm will cross the southeastern and central Caribbean Sea late Monday through Wednesday.

How Beryl grew:Hurricane Beryl, super-charged by warm seas, stuns experts

Hurricane Beryl hits Category 5, breaks record as earliest ever to hit max strength (1)

Hurricane Beryl's quick emergence a 'massive warning sign'

An explosive increase in wind speeds, a record for the strongest hurricane this early in the season. Those are ominous signs of what weather experts see as danger ahead in what is expected to be a hyperactive season for major storms.

Hurricane Beryl's stunning transformation from a tropical depression to a major hurricane in less than 42 hours has meteorologists reaching out for superlatives and issuing warnings. This is only the seventh time such a quick rise in category has occurred with an Atlantic storm, and never before had it happened before Sept. 1, the heart of the hurricane season.

"Buckle up. It could be a challenging few months ahead," said chief science officer Steve Bowen of Gallagher Re, a reinsurance firm. "This is a massive warning sign for the rest of the season."

Could Hurricane Beryl hit the US coast?

After watching Beryl spin up from a tropical depression to a hurricane in a little more than 40 hours, and then slam into the Windward Islands, the big question on the minds of millions of U.S. residents is where the storm could be next weekend and whether it will still be a hurricane.

Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer yet, and may not be for a couple of days.

On Monday evening, the National Hurricane Center’s forecast track showed Beryl as a tropical storm near the Mexican coast on Saturday afternoon.

“There’s a lot of variables that could occur that can change the direction of a tropical storm, especially when it’s several days out,” said Tawnya Evans, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service field office in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Windy conditions over the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico could prevent Beryl from maintaining its hurricane status.

A high-pressure ridge sitting over the Gulf could be the deciding factor. If it holds strong, Beryl would continue a more westward track. If the ridge shifts eastward, Beryl could move more northward and potentially threaten the Gulf Coast.

Regardless of its strength or location in the Gulf nextweekend, Beryl could bring an increased risk of showers and thunderstorms, along with swells and rip currents to the Texas coast, Corpus Christi’s forecast stated on Monday.

Puerto Rico forecast to see large swells

The hurricane center expects Beryl to remain a hurricane as it reaches Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on Friday.

"The most likely scenario is for the storm to move westward into Mexico," DaSilva said. "However, it is very important to note that if the high pressure across the Southeast weakens, that can allow the storm to move farther north and potentially directly impact the Gulf Coast."

The storm is likely to have some impact on Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory that is home to more than 3 million American citizens. The hurricane center said the island can expect large swells that cause "life-threatening surf and rip current conditions'' in the next day.

'Full panic mode' in Barbados

Abe and Kristin Homan woke up Monday to the crash of waves on barrier islands just a short walk from their hotel on the southwestern coast of Barbados. From their window, they watched as fierce winds uprooted trees and sent debris flying.

“It’s pretty intense,” Abe Homan, 46, told USA TODAY.

The Homans arrived on the island Tuesday. What started “as a beautiful vacation,” made a dramatic turn over the weekend when the couple realized the severity of the storm, and people “went into full panic mode,” Homan said. They searched for a way back to South Carolina on Sunday, but it was too late. The planes were fully booked and the airport was soon shut down. Back at the Sandals resort, stranded vacationers and some of the staff were distraught.

“They were just so confused, and almost crying,” said Abe Homan, who runs a technology company based in his home state.

Later Monday, the Barbados government discontinued the hurricane warning. Now, the Homans are hoping to return to their four children in South Carolina by the Fourth of July.

Christopher Cann

Beryl on the move:Hurricane Beryl an 'extremely dangerous' Cat 4 storm as it roars toward Caribbean

Grenada authorities warn residents to stay indoors

Dr. Terence Walters, the national disaster coordinator for Grenada, urged residents to gather documents and put them and other necessities in plastic bags. Walters, speaking at a briefing early Monday, warned residents not to go outside but said Beryl could damage or destroy some homes. Even if a house suffers damage, residents might be safer hiding in a bathroom rather than making a run for a government shelter, Walters said. About 3,000 people were in shelters awaiting the storm, he said.

"If your house is damaged or destroyed, you have to use good judgment before you make a decision to get to safety," he said.

Barbados weather worsens: 'Do not go anywhere'

In Barbados, about 160 miles northeast of Carriacou, Home Affairs and Information Minister Wilfred Abrahams told residents “do not go anywhere until the all clear is given." Abrahams said some power lines were down and some of the island's 280,000 people were in the dark. More than 35,000 homes and businesses − about a quarter of Barbados Light & Power customers − were without power, the company said.

The worst of the storm has passed, but more damage was expected, Abrahams said. A "drone team" was ready to survey the island and help determine where work crews will be sent, he said.

Abrahams said the sun was coming out and he could see from comments on social media that many people were anxious about what happened.

“I know in the day of social media, everybody wants to be first to get something out," he told Barbados Today. "You want to be the first to have a video. You want to be the first to show something, you want to be first to show house damage. Don’t do that in a way that might cost you your life."

Hurricane Beryl hits Category 5, breaks record as earliest ever to hit max strength (3)

Riding out Hurricane Beryl in St. Lucia: 'We'll just kind of wing it'

Among those hunkering down for the storm was Linda Dancer, a travel agent from Charlotte, North Carolina, who arrived in St. Lucia on Saturday for an award ceremony. Over the last two days, she's watched as staff at the Sandals Grande St. Lucian resort installed plywood over windows, laid out sandbags and removed chandeliers. Dancer, 63, planned on staying in her room as the hurricane lashed the island.

“It was really sunny this morning, but we have outer bands coming in so it’s getting gray and darker out now,” she told USA TODAY. “I’m not taking my eyes off the weather app.”

While stocking her fridge at a Sandals resort on the west side of the island, Dancer has also been coordinating with clients whose vacations and honeymoons have been interrupted by the hurricane.

“Some of them … they're scared but you can’t leave at this point,” she said. “Some are like, ‘It's not that big a deal, we'll just kind of wing it.’”

Christopher Cann

What is rapid intensification?

Rapid intensification is a process in which a storm undergoes accelerated growth. The phenomenon is typically defined to be a tropical cyclone (whether a tropical storm or hurricane) intensifying by at least 35 mph in a 24-hour period.

"Rapid intensification occurs when a tropical storm or hurricane encounters an extremely conducive environment," Colorado State University hurricane researcherPhil Klotzbach said. "Typically, this environment consists of very warm water, low vertical wind shear and high levels of midlevel moisture."

What are the Windward Islands?

The Windward Islands are the group of Caribbean islands in the eastern part of the Caribbean Sea. They include Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada. Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago are sometimes included in the group.

They are called "windward"− which means upward from a given point − because they are more windward to arriving ships than the Leeward Islands.

Downgraded Tropical Storm Chris still a threat in Mexico

Tropical Storm Chris, the third named storm of the season, eased to tropical depression status after crashing across the Mexican coastline near Veracruz overnight. The storm was forecast to produce rainfall totals of 4 to 8 inches across parts of eastern Mexico earlier Monday, with maximum rainfall totals around 12 inches in higher terrain of the Mexican states of Guanajuato, Queretaro and San Luis Potosi.

"This rainfall will result in areas of flooding, with mudslides possible in areas of higher terrain," the National Weather Service said.

What is the 2024 hurricane season forecast?

Federal forecasters have predicted a hurricane season unlike any other, with as many as 25 named storms possible.

It is the most storms the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has ever predicted in a preseason outlook. "All the ingredients are in place for an active season," National Weather Service director Ken Graham said in May.

NOAA director Rick Spinrad said the Atlantic hurricane season is shaping up to be "extraordinary" − an 85% chance for an above-average year. "The forecast … is the highest NOAA has ever issued for the May outlook," he said.

Hurricane Beryl Spaghetti models

Hurricane Beryl Trajectory

Contributing: Doyle Rice and Christopher Cann, USA TODAY; Reuters

Hurricane Beryl hits Category 5, breaks record as earliest ever to hit max strength (2024)

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