July 20th, 2024

Hurricane Beryl makes landfall on Mexico’s Caribbean coast near Tulum as a Category 2 storm

By Martín Silva And John Myers Jr., The Associated Press on July 5, 2024.

TULUM, Mexico (AP) – Hurricane Beryl made landfall on Mexico’s coast near the resort of Tulum as a Category 2 storm early Friday after leaving a trail of destruction across the eastern Caribbean.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said that Beryl is expected to rapidly weaken to a tropical storm as it crosses over the Yucatan Peninsula before it re-emerges into the Gulf of Mexico and likely regains hurricane strength.

Once in the warm waters of the Gulf, Beryl is forecast to head toward northern Mexico near the Texas border, an area had already been soaked by Tropical Storm Alberto just a couple of weeks ago.

Once the earliest storm to develop into a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic, Beryl spread destruction in Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Barbados in recent days.

Mexican authorities had moved some tourists and residents out of low-lying areas around the Yucatan peninsula prior to landfall, but tens of thousands remained to tough out the 100 mph (160 kph) winds and expected storm surge. Much of the area around Tulum is just a few yards (meters) above sea level.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

TULUM, Mexico (AP) – Hurricane Beryl weakened slightly to a Category 2 storm as it headed for what could be a direct hit on Mexico’s Caribbean coast resort of Tulum early Friday, where authorities urged tourists to leave white sand beaches.

Beryl was the earliest Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic before weakening to a Category 2 storm with windspeeds of 110 mph (175 kph) as it neared landfall on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador issued a statement late Thursday saying Beryl may make a direct hit on Tulum, which, while smaller than Cancun, still has thousands of tourists and residents.

“It is recommendable that people get to higher ground, shelters or the homes of friends or family elsewhere,” López Obrador wrote. “Don’t hesitate, material possessions can be replaced.”

Once a sleepy, laid-back village, in recent years Tulum has boomed with unrestrained development and now has about 50,000 permanent inhabitants and at least as many tourists on an average day. The resort now has its own international airport, but it is largely low-lying, just a few yards (meters) above sea level.

Early Friday, the storm’s center was about 40 miles (65 kilometers) east of Tulum and was moving west-northwest at 15 mph (about 24 kph), the hurricane center said.

On Friday, Beryl was expected to weaken as it crossed over the Yucatan peninsula and re-emerge in the Gulf of Mexico, where the surprisingly resilient storm could once again become a hurricane and make a second landfall around Mexico’s border with Texas next week.

As the wind began gusting over Tulum’s beaches, four-wheelers with megaphones rolled along the sand telling people to leave. Tourists snapped photos of the growing surf, but military personnel urged them to leave.

Authorities around the Yucatan peninsula have prepared shelters, evacuated some small outlying coastal communities and even moved sea turtle eggs off beaches threatened by storm surge. In Tulum, authorities shut things down and evacuated beachside hotels.

Francisco Bencomo, general manager of Hotel Umi in Tulum, said all of their guests had left.

“With these conditions, we’ll be completely locked down,” he said, adding there were no plans to have guests return before July 10th.

“We’ve cut the gas and electricity. We also have an emergency floor where two maintenance employees will be locking down,” he said from the hotel. “We have them staying in the room farthest from the beach and windows.”

“I hope we have the least impact possible on the hotel, that the hurricane moves quickly through Tulum, and that it’s nothing serious,” he said.

Tourists were also taking precautions. Lara Marsters, 54, a therapist visiting Tulum from Boise, Idaho, said “this morning we woke up and just filled all of our empty water bottles with water from the tap and put it in the freezer “¦ so we will have water to flush the toilet.”

“We expect that the power will go out,” Marsters said. “We’re going to hunker down and stay safe.”

But once Beryl re-emerges into the Gulf of Mexico a day later, forecasters say it is again expected to build to hurricane strength and could hit right around the Mexico-U.S. border, at Matamoros. That area was already soaked in June by Tropical Storm Alberto.

Velázquez said temporary storm shelters were in place at schools and hotels but efforts to evacuate a few highly exposed villages – like Punta Allen, which sits on a narrow spit of land south of Tulum – and Mahahual, further south – had been only partially successful.

Earlier, Beryl wreaked havoc in the Caribbean. The hurricane damaged or destroyed 95% of homes on a pair of islands in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, jumbled fishing boats in Barbados and ripped off roofs and knocked out electricity in Jamaica.

On Union Island, part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a man who identified himself as Captain Baga described the storm’s impact, including how he had filled two 2,000-gallon rubber water tanks in preparation.

“I strapped them down securely on six sides; and I watched the wind lift those tanks and take them away — filled with water,” he said Thursday. “I’m a sailor and I never believed wind could do what I saw it do, if anyone (had) ever told me wind could do that, I would have told them they lie!”

The island was littered with debris from homes that looked like they had exploded.

Girlyn Williams and Jeremiah Forde were trying to recover what they could Thursday around their home, where only a concrete foundation remained standing.

They had run from room to room during the storm as different sections of their house were being destroyed. Eventually, they hid in a small space created by a rubber water tank that got wedged between the house and a concrete tank. Williams cut her leg in the scramble and needed six stitches.

Three people were reported killed in Grenada and Carriacou and another in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, officials said. Three other deaths were reported in northern Venezuela, where four people were missing, officials said.

In the Pacific, Tropical Depression Aletta was located about 300 miles (485 kilometers) south-southeast of the southern tip of Baja California with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph), and was forecast to head away from land and dissipate by the weekend.

___

Myers reported from Kingston, Jamaica. Associated Press writers Renloy Trail in Kingston, Jamaica; Mark Stevenson, María Verza and Mariana Martínez Barba in Mexico City; Coral Murphy Marcos in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Lucanus Ollivierre on Union Island, St. Vincent and Grenadines, contributed to this report.

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