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Hurricane Beryl in Atlantic expected to grow into Category 3 storm

COURTESY NOAA
                                The five-day forecast track of Tropical Storm Beryl shows it growing into a major hurricane by early next week as it heads toward the Gulf of Mexico.
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COURTESY NOAA

The five-day forecast track of Tropical Storm Beryl shows it growing into a major hurricane by early next week as it heads toward the Gulf of Mexico.

Tropical Storm Beryl officially became Hurricane Beryl this afternoon, having strengthened since its formation late Friday night and reaching sustained winds of 75 mph, with higher gusts.

Hurricane Beryl is expected to bring “life-threatening winds and storm surge” to the Windward Islands, southeast of Puerto Rico and north of Venezuela, as it continues moving west, the National Hurricane Center said today. The winds could be up to 30% stronger across the higher elevations of the islands, forecasters said.

A hurricane warning was issued for Barbados, and several other Caribbean islands were under a hurricane watch, including St. Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada. The islands of Martinique, Dominica and Tobago were under a tropical storm watch.

A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected in the specified area within 36 hours and that people should complete all storm preparations, including evacuations if directed by local officials. A hurricane watch indicates that hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours and that residents should prepare to act.

Forecasters predicted Beryl would hit Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on Monday morning, with damaging winds preceding it likely to reach the capital, Kingstown, at 7 a.m. local time.

Some computer weather models suggest that the storm could intensify into a major hurricane, which is a Category 3 or higher.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration records, only three storms have reached Category 3 status in the north Atlantic Ocean this early in the season: Alma in 1966, Audrey in 1957 and an unnamed storm in 1916.

All made landfall on the U.S. coastline in the Gulf of Mexico: Alma near St. Marks, Florida; Audrey near Port Arthur, Texas; and the 1916 storm near Mobile, Alabama.

The system became Tropical Storm Beryl late Friday when its sustained winds reached 39 mph. At 74 mph, a storm becomes a hurricane.

A named storm this far east in the Atlantic is unusual for June, John Cangialosi, a forecaster with the National Hurricane Center, wrote in an advisory Friday.

“There have only been a few storms in history that have formed over the central or eastern tropical Atlantic this early in the year,” he wrote.

Here are key things to know about the storm.

>> Swells created by Beryl are expected to reach the Windward and southern Leeward Islands by late Sunday, forecasters said, and likely cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

>> The storm is expected to cross the islands of the eastern Caribbean as early as Sunday night before traversing the central Caribbean Sea through the middle of next week.

>> Between 3 to 6 inches of rain, hurricane-force winds and dangerous storm surge are possible in the eastern Caribbean Islands, including Barbados, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Sunday into Monday.

>> There is a fair amount of uncertainty in the forecast about the track the storm will take, especially beyond three days.

Forecasters have warned that the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season could be much more active than usual.

In late May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted 17 to 25 named storms this year, an “above-normal” number and a prediction in line with more than a dozen forecasts earlier in the year from experts at universities, private companies and government agencies.

Hurricane seasons produce 14 named storms on average.

The seasonal hurricane outlooks were notably aggressive because forecasters looking at the start of the season saw a combination of circumstances that didn’t exist in records dating back to the mid-1800s: record warm water temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and the potential formation of the weather pattern known as La Nina.

La Nina occurs in the Pacific because of changing ocean temperatures, and it affects weather patterns globally.

When it is strong, it typically provides a calm environment in the Atlantic. This allows storms to develop more easily and to strengthen without interference from wind patterns that might otherwise keep them from organizing.

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This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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