Hurricane Beryl, now Category 4, has Jamaica in its path; potential for Tropical Storm Chris to form near Mexico

Beryl became the season’s first major hurricane on Sunday, reaching Category 4 strength as it approached the Caribbean with winds topping 130 mph, forecasters said.

Beryl has strengthened rapidly since forming and is likely to bring “life-threatening winds and storm surge” on its approach to the far eastern Caribbean early Monday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

A Hurricane Hunter aircraft investigated the hurricane on Sunday, recording maximum sustained wind speeds of at least 130 mph with higher gusts. It is forecast to continue strengthening as it sweeps through the Caribbean Sea.

Jamaica, Belize and parts of Mexico were within Beryl’s cone Sunday.

The forecast for Beryl includes “a life-threatening storm surge” of as much as 6 to 9 feet and 3 to 6 inches of rain across Barbados and the Windward Islands Sunday into Monday, increasing the potential for flash flooding, according to the hurricane center,

Meanwhile, a tropical storm watch may be issued later Sunday for a portion of the eastern coast of Mexico due to another storm system, forecasters said Sunday. It’s possible a short-lived Tropical Storm Chris could form from a system moving across the Caribbean and headed toward inland Mexico.

Forecasters also said Sunday that a tropical wave in the eastern Atlantic off Africa could become a tropical depression by midweek as it moves toward the eastern and central Caribbean.

Hurricane warnings are in effect across the eastern Caribbean for Beryl, as the islands braced for the first hurricane of what’s expected to be an extremely active storm season.

At 11 a.m. Sunday, the storm was 355 miles east-southeast of Barbados and moving west at 21 mph.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 15 miles from Beryl’s center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 80 miles.

A hurricane warning is in effect for Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Tobago, and the Grenadine Islands and Grenada, while a tropical storm warning is in effect for Martinique. A tropical storm watch is in effect for Dominica and Trinidad.

“Development this far east in late June is unusual,” the forecasters at the hurricane center said. “In fact, there have only been a few storms in history that have formed over the central or eastern tropical Atlantic this early in the year.”

Beryl is expected to remain a significant hurricane through the next five days, forecasters said Sunday.

Beryl is not expected to affect South Florida.

Meanwhile, a tropical wave in the eastern Atlantic, which could become a tropical depression by midweek as it moves toward the eastern and central Caribbean, was given a 40% chance of developing in the next two days and a 70% chance in the next seven days.

It is expected to move west at 15 to 20 mph, forecasters said.

The system that could potentially become Tropical Storm Chris was given an 80% chance of developing in the two days, forecasters said. It is forecast to move over inland Mexico on Monday.

Regardless of development, heavy rain is expected to affect portions of Central America and Mexico through the weekend.

After Chris, the next storm to form will be Debby.

The western Gulf of Mexico generated the 2024 season’s first tropical storm last week. Dubbed Alberto, the system made landfall in Mexico 250 miles south of the U.S. border, but sent storm surge and flood to spots 500 miles away in Louisiana.

The 2024 hurricane season, which officially began June 1, is expected to be extremely active.

In its annual May outlook, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that the 2024 hurricane season has an 85% chance of being above normal, with 17 to 25 named storms with minimum sustained winds of 39 mph, and eight to 13 hurricanes. An average year has 14 named storms and seven hurricanes.

In addition, NOAA has forecast four to seven major hurricanes for 2024, meaning those that are Category 3 or above.

Experts at Colorado State University stated in their 2024 forecast that the U.S. East Coast, including Florida, had a 34% chance of a major hurricane making landfall this year. The average from 1880-2020 was 21%.

Forecasters say that the record-warm water temperatures that now cover much of the Atlantic Ocean will continue into peak hurricane season from August to October. That warm water fuels hurricanes. By early June, the tropical Atlantic was already as hot as it usually is in mid-August — peak hurricane season.

Hurricane season officially ends Nov. 30.


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