July 17, 2024

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Hurricane Beryl: Airports closed, Caribbean residents urged to take shelter

Hurricane Beryl: Airports closed, Caribbean residents urged to take shelter

Image source, Getty Images

Airports and businesses have been closed and residents across the Caribbean have been urged to seek shelter as a potentially devastating storm approaches the region.

Hurricane Beryl, which has regained strength in recent hours, has sparked warnings of life-threatening winds and dangerous storm surges.

A hurricane warning is in effect for Barbados, Grenada, Saint Vincent, the Grenadines and Tobago.

Dozens of flights were canceled across the region as the hurricane approached Sunday night, while leaders urged the public to heed warnings.

  • author, Vanessa Buchschlutter
  • Role, BBC News

“It’s not a joke,” said St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, reminding people of the devastation caused by past hurricanes in the Caribbean.

In a national address from his official residence, Gonsalves said he was seeking shelter in the basement of his house.

“The roof, and certainly the old part of it, may not withstand winds of up to 150 miles per hour (241 kilometers per hour). I am making preparations to go downstairs,” he said.

Beryl’s power was fickle.

The hurricane was upgraded to a Category 4 on Monday after weakening slightly earlier.

The National Hurricane Center said fluctuations in strength were likely to continue but warned that parts of the Windward Islands should prepare for “potentially catastrophic wind damage.”

She said St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada were most at risk of damage.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley also urged citizens to be cautious.

“We need to be prepared. You and I know that when things like this happen, it’s best to plan for the worst and pray for the best,” she said.

“Don’t let your guard down,” she added.

Meteorologists say it is unusual for a hurricane of this strength to form so early in the year.

“Only five major (Category 3+) hurricanes had been recorded in the Atlantic prior to the first week of July,” hurricane expert Michael Lowry wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Beryl will be the sixth and oldest easternmost in the tropical Atlantic,” Lowry wrote.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has warned that the North Atlantic could see up to seven major hurricanes this year, compared to an average of three per season.

She said record high sea surface temperatures were partly to blame.

Video comment, Hurricane Beryl hits the southeastern Caribbean Sea

Meteorologists have also noticed how quickly beryl is developing.

Hurricane expert Sam Lillo told the Associated Press news agency that the storm intensified from a tropical depression into a major Category 3 or higher hurricane in just 42 hours.

Much of the region has heeded the warnings.

Stores closed and people were keen to stock up on fuel and groceries.

Grenada declared a state of emergency and St. Lucia imposed a “national lockdown,” ordering schools and businesses to remain closed.