Beryl strengthens into the earliest Category 5 Atlantic hurricane on record after devastating Windward Islands | CNN (2024)


Hurricane Beryl has strengthened into a Category 5 Atlantic hurricane — the earliest on record — as it powers across the Caribbean after bringing devastation to the Windward Islands, where at least one person is dead.

Its intensity alsomarks just the second time an Atlantic hurricane has reached Category 5statusin July after Emily did so onJuly 17, 2005, according to the National Hurricane Center. Beryl’s maximum sustained winds have increased to near 160 mph, with higher gusts, the NHC said.

“Fluctuations in strength are likely during the next day or so, but Beryl is expected to still be near major hurricane intensity as its moves into the central Caribbean and passes near Jamaica on Wednesday,” the NHC said.

Beryl made landfall shortly after 11:00 a.m. EDT on Grenada’s Carriacou Island in the Caribbean Sea with max winds of 150 mph. It is the strongestknown hurricane to pass through the Grenadines, according to data from NOAA that goes back to 1851.

There were “widespread reports of destruction and devastation in Carriacou and Petite Martinique,” Grenada Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell said in a Monday news briefing. “In half an hour, Carriacou was flattened.”

Mitchell said there were no immediate reports of death or injury in Grenada but warned that could change.

“You have to appreciate the ferocity and the strength of thehurricaneand therefore we are not yet out of the woods,” he said.

At least one death was reported in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where hundreds of homes and buildings have been damaged, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves announced Monday evening, noting there may be more fatalities. Parts of St. Vincentand the Grenadines were left with no water or electricity as of Monday night, Gonsalves said.

Hurricane Beryl “left in its wake immense destruction, pain, suffering, across our nation at this hour,” he said. Union Island, just north of Grenada, was devastated, with reports indicating 90% of the houses have been severely damaged or destroyed, Gonsalves said.

In Grenada, about 95% of the island has lost power due to HurricaneBeryl, Neila K. Ettienne, press secretary for the office of the prime minister, told CNN on Monday. Telecommunications across Grenadaare down, and some individuals have lost internet service, Ettienne explained.

All schools and business are closed, including the airport, the secretary said, adding only hospitals and the national police force are currently operational. The airport reported a sustained wind speed of 92 mph and a gust of 121 mph Monday afternoon, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Beryl’s arrivalmarks an exceptionally early start to the Atlantic hurricane season. On Sunday it became the earliest Category 4 on record in the Atlantic Ocean and the only Category 4 in the month of June. The abnormally warm ocean waters that facilitated Beryl’s alarming strengthening are a clear indicator that this hurricane season will be far from normal in a world warming due to fossil fuel pollution.

Beryl is breaking records 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.”

Kossin added the ocean heat fueling Beryl’s unprecedented strengthening “certainly have a human fingerprint on them.”

Hurricane Beryl makes landfall Monday morning.

The latest on Beryl:

Beryl is a dangerous hurricane:The storm was located 510 miles east-southeast of Isla Beata in the Dominican Republic, had sustained winds of 160 mph and was moving to the west-northwest at 22 mph as of Monday evening. Beryl’s hurricane-force winds extend 40 miles from center while tropical-storm-force winds extend about 125 miles. The storm’s center is expected to move away from the southern Windward Islands Monday night and across the southeastern and central Caribbean Sea through Tuesday, and is forecast to pass near Jamaica on Wednesday.

• Hurricane warning for Jamaica: Hurricane conditions are expected to reach the coast on Jamaica by Wednesday, according to the NHC. Tropical storm warnings are also in effect for the south coast of Dominican Republic from Punta Palenque westward to the border with Haiti, and the south coast of Haiti from the border with the Dominican Republic to Anse-d’Hainault.

Hundreds evacuated: More than 400 people were being housed in hurricane shelters across Barbados on Sunday night, the nation’s Chief Shelter Warden, Ramona Archer-Bradshaw, told CNN affiliate CBC News.

Beryl strengthens into the earliest Category 5 Atlantic hurricane on record after devastating Windward Islands | CNN (1)

Hurricane Beryl floods a street in Hastings, Barbados, Monday.

Beryl strengthens into the earliest Category 5 Atlantic hurricane on record after devastating Windward Islands | CNN (2)

Waves batter palm trees as Hurricane Beryl impacts Hastings, Barbados, Monday.

State of emergency in Grenada: A state of emergency declared Sunday night by Grenadian Gov. General Cécile La Grenade will remain in effect until Tuesday morning. All businesses have closed except the police force, hospitals, prisons, waste disposal and ports.

Airports remain closed: Airports in Barbados, Grenada and Saint Lucia were closed Sunday night as Beryl approached. Grenada’s Maurice Bishop International Airport is expected to reopen Tuesday morning, a spokesperson said. The Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados and St. Lucia’s Hewanorra International and George Charles airports have also halted operations. The Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados will resume operations Tuesday, a spokesperson said.

Cricket World Cup fans stuck:Barbados is still hosting cricket fans from around the globe who traveled to the island for the T20 World Cup, some of whom are not scheduled to leave until Monday or Tuesday, said Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley. “Some of them have never gone through a hurricane or a storm before,” she added, imploring residents to provide support for visitors, if possible.

Where Beryl is headed next

Landfall is far from the end of Beryl’s story, and its long-term path is still uncertain.

The hurricane will track generally west or northwest over the Caribbean Sea through Thursday, and is expected to remain a major hurricane – Category 3 or stronger – into midweek before losing a bit of strength.

Even so, the hurricane will remain formidable with strong winds, torrential rain and hazardous seas extending well beyond its center over much of the Caribbean. Beryl’s center could pass just south of Jamaica on Wednesday and bring heavier impacts to the country even if it doesn’t make landfall there.

“Storm surge could raise water levels by as much as 3 to 5 feet above normal tide levels in areas of onshore winds along the immediate coast of Jamaica,” the hurricane center said.

Beryl strengthens into the earliest Category 5 Atlantic hurricane on record after devastating Windward Islands | CNN (3)

Each line represents a different forecast model predicting where Beryl could track through the weekend. The space between the lines shows how much uncertainty there is in Beryl's track -- more space, more uncertainty. Its path is most uncertain after it makes landfall in The Yucatan.

Several days are likely to elapse between Beryl’s first landfall in the Windward Islands Monday and its next likely landfall on or around Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula around Friday morning.

The hurricane center also noted large swells from the storm will continue in the Windward and southern Leeward Islands for the next couple of days. “Swells are also expected to reach the southern coasts of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola late tonight into Tuesday. These swells are expected to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions,” it said.

What happens after Beryl’s next landfall will also determine if the cyclone is able to reach the Gulf of Mexico over the weekend. If Beryl is able to survive its journey over land and reach the bathtub-warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, it could spell trouble for northeast Mexico or possibly the US Gulf Coast.

An unprecedented start to hurricane season

This season is already off to a busy start as a second storm – Tropical Storm Chris – made landfall near Tuxpan, Mexico, off the Gulf Coast early Monday.

Beryl strengthens into the earliest Category 5 Atlantic hurricane on record after devastating Windward Islands | CNN (4)

A woman walks through a street filled with debris in the Hastings neighborhood after Hurricane Beryl passed in Bridgetown, Barbados.

Beryl is ushering in a troubling start to a hurricane season that forecasters have warned will be hyperactive – and Beryl’s record-shattering activity may be a sign of what’s to come.

More on hurricanes

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  • Basic hurricane terminology you should know
  • Notable statistics from US hurricane history
  • 2024 Atlantic hurricane season preview
  • How to stay safe in the aftermath of a hurricane

    Beryl is the earliestmajor hurricane – defined as one that is Category 3 or higher – in the Atlantic in 58 years. The storm’s rapid intensification is very atypical this early into hurricane season, according to National Hurricane Center Director Mike Brennan. It’s rare for tropical systems to form in the central Atlantic east of the Lesser Antilles in June, particularly strong ones, as only a handful of tropical systems have done so,according to NOAA records.

    The storm isn’t just early for this season. It is now the Atlantic Ocean’s third-earliest major hurricane. The earliest was Hurricane Alma on June 8, 1966, followed by Hurricane Audrey, which reached major hurricane status on June 27, 1957.

    Beryl has also set the record for the easternmost hurricane to form in the Tropical Atlantic in June, beating a previous record set in 1933.

    The central and eastern Atlantic traditionally become more active in August, in part because ocean temperatures have had time to warm and fuel developing systems.

    This year, however, the Atlantic basin has seen above normal water temperatures and a lack of wind shear due to the transition from El Niño season to La Niña season, both of which are fuel for tropical development.

    “Berylhas found an environment with very warm ocean waters for this time of year,” Brennan said.

    Systems forming this early in the summer in this part of the Atlanticis a sign of the hyperactive hurricane season to come, according toresearch fromPhil Klotzbach, a hurricane expert and research scientist at Colorado State University.Normally, ocean temperatures aren’t warm enough in June and July to help tropical systems thrive.

    National Weather Serviceforecasterspredict17 to 25 named storms this season, with as many as 13 of those becoming hurricanes.

    “That’s well above average,” Brennan noted.

    CNN’s Zoe Sottile, Monica Garrett, Gene Norman, Michael Rios, Marlon Sorto, Sandi Sidhu, Melissa Alonso, Isaac Yee, Eric Zerkel, Rachel Ramirez and Brandon Miller contributed to this report.

    Beryl strengthens into the earliest Category 5 Atlantic hurricane on record after devastating Windward Islands | CNN (2024)
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