July 18th, 2024

Texas officials urge coastal residents to prepare as Beryl moves toward the Gulf of Mexico

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

TULUM, Mexico (AP) – Texas officials are urging coastal residents to prepare as Beryl moves toward the Gulf of Mexico after leaving a trail of destruction that has killed at least 11 people.

Some Texas counties have already issued voluntary evacuation orders in low-lying areas. Along the Texas coast in Corpus Christi, city officials announced it had distributed 10,000 sand bags in less than two hours on Friday, exhausting its supply.

“This is a determined storm, that is still strong,” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said.

Beryl roared ashore on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula as a hurricane near the resort town of Tulum early Friday, whipping trees and knocking out power.

Beryl hit Mexico as a Category 2 hurricane but weakened to a tropical storm as it moved across the peninsula. The U.S. National Hurricane Center expects Beryl to regain hurricane strength once it reemerges into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where it is forecast to head toward northern Mexico near the Texas border.

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

TULUM, Mexico (AP) – Beryl roared ashore on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula as a hurricane near the resort town of Tulum early Friday, whipping trees and knocking out power there after leaving a trail of destruction that killed at least 11 people across the Caribbean.

Beryl hit Mexico as a Category 2 hurricane but weakened to a tropical storm as it moved across the peninsula. The U.S. National Hurricane Center expects Beryl to regain hurricane strength once it reemerges into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where it is forecast to head toward northern Mexico near the Texas border, an area soaked by Tropical Storm Alberto just a couple of weeks ago.

Beryl spread destruction in Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Barbados this week after becoming the earliest storm to develop into a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic. Three people have been reported dead in Grenada, three in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, three in Venezuela and two in Jamaica, officials said.

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

The city was plunged into darkness when the storm knocked out power as it came ashore. Screeching winds set off car alarms across the town. Wind and rain continued to whip the seaside city and surrounding areas Friday morning. Army brigades roved the streets of the tourist city, clearing fallen trees and power lines.

After seeing Beryl tear through the Caribbean, 37-year-old Lucía Nagera Balcaza was among those who stocked up on food and hid away in their homes.

“Thank god, we woke up this morning and everything was all right,” she said. “The streets are a disaster, but we’re out here cleaning up.”

Although no dead or wounded have been reported, nearly half of Tulum continued to be without electricity, said Laura Velázquez, national coordinator of Mexican Civil Protection.

While many in the Yucatan Peninsula took a deep breath, Jamaica and other islands ravaged by the hurricane were still reeling. As of Friday morning, 55% of Jamaica still without electricity and most of the country was without running water, according to government figures.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness promised swift relief for residents affected by Hurricane Beryl after visiting one of the worst-affected areas of the island, the southern parish of St Elizabeth on Thursday afternoon.

“I know some of you are experiencing discomfort and displacement, and I want to assure you that the government will move as quickly as we can to get you the help you need,” he said.

The storm’s center Friday afternoon was about 60 miles (95 kilometers) northwest of the town Dzilam and moving west-northwest at 15 mph (about 24 kph), Mexicans authorities said. Beryl had maximum sustained winds of 70 mph (115 kph).

In Corpus Christi, Texas, where officials are bracing for the chance Beryl could turn northward and bring with it possible coastal flooding, strong winds and dangerous rip currents, the city announced it had distributed 10,000 sandbags in less than two hours on Friday, exhausting its supply. The city had already distributed 14,000 sandbags Wednesday.

Before the storm hit Mexico, official had set up shelters in schools and hotels. When the wind began gusting over Tulum’s beaches Thursday, officials on four-wheelers with megaphones rolled along the sand telling people to leave and authorities evacuated beachside hotels. Sea turtle eggs were even moved off beaches threatened by storm surge.

Tourists also took precautions. Lara Marsters, 54, a therapist visiting Tulum from Boise, Idaho, said she had filled up empty water bottles from the tap.

“We’re going to hunker down and stay safe,” she said.

Earlier in the week, 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 (7,570-liter) 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.

___

Myers reported from Kingston, Jamaica. Associated Press writers Renloy Trail in Kingston, Jamaica; Mark Stevenson and Megan Janetsky in Mexico City; Coral Murphy Marcos in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Lucanus Ollivierre on Union Island, St. Vincent and Grenadines; and Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.

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