July 18th, 2024

Beryl weakens to tropical storm after sweeping into Texas as Cat 1 hurricane

By Mark Vancleave And Juan A. Lozano, The Associated Press on July 8, 2024.

Leo Cardin walks past a Confederate Artillery Battery display as he watches storm clouds roll in ahead of Beryl, Sunday, July 7, 2024, in Port Lavaca, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

MATAGORDA, Texas (AP) – Hurricane Beryl swept into Texas early Monday with heavy rains and powerful winds, knocking out power to 1.5 million homes and businesses and flooding streets with fast-rising waters as first responders raced to rescue stranded residents.

Beryl had already cut a deadly path through parts of Mexico and the Caribbean before turning toward Texas. The Category 1 hurricane hit land just before 4 a.m., then weakened to a tropical storm about five hours later. At least two people were killed. The National Hurricane Center said damaging winds and flash flooding will continue as Beryl continues pushing inland.

High waters quickly began to close streets in storm-weary Houston, which was again under flood warnings after heavy storms in recent months washed out neighborhoods.

CenterPoint Energy in Houston reported 1.5 million homes and businesses were without power. Flood warnings were in effect across a wide stretch of the Texas coast, where a powerful storm surge pushed water ashore, and further inland as heavy rain continued to fall.

“We haven’t really slept,” said Eva Costancio, 67, as she gazed at a large tree that had fallen across power lines in the Houston suburb of Rosenberg. Her neighborhood lost power about four hours earlier and she worried that food in her refrigerator would be spoiled.

“We are struggling to have food and losing that food would be difficult,” she said.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is acting governor while Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is out of the country, said crews cannot get out to fix power lines until the wind dies down. He also warned that flooding could last for days and the storm continues to dump rain onto already saturated ground.

“This is not a one-day event,” Patrick said.

Rosenberg police noted that one of its high-water vehicles was hit by a falling tree while returning from a rescue, and they urged people to stay off the roads. Video footage showed heavy street flooding in the barrier island city of Galveston, and Houston was under a flash-flood warning for most of the morning as heavy rain continued to soak the city.

Two people were killed after trees fell on their houses: a man in the Houston suburb of Humble and a woman in Harris County, authorities said.

Texas officials warned people along the entire coastline to prepare for possible flooding, heavy rain and wind. Several coastal counties called for voluntary evacuations in low-lying areas. Local officials also banned beach camping and urged tourists traveling on the Fourth of July holiday weekend to move recreational vehicles from coastal parks.

Tornadoes and flash flooding were also possible in eastern Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, the hurricane center said.

In the Texas coastal city of Freeport, Patti Richardson said she was riding out the the storm in her 123-year-old house.

“We are sitting in the middle of it. It sounds like we are in a train station, it’s that loud and has been about four hours. We’re just hoping everything holds together,” Richardson said. “You can feel the house shaking. … It’s freaky.”

More than 1,000 flights have been canceled at Houston’s two airports, according to tracking data from FlightAware.

The earliest storm to develop into a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic, Beryl caused at least 11 deaths as it passed through the Caribbean on its way to Texas. The storm ripped off doors, windows and roofs with devastating winds and storm surge fueled by the Atlantic’s record warmth.

Three times during its one week of life, Beryl has gained 35 mph (56 kph) in wind speed in 24 hours or less, the official weather service definition of rapid intensification.

Beryl’s explosive growth into an unprecedented early whopper of a storm indicates the hot water of the Atlantic and Caribbean and what the Atlantic hurricane belt can expect for the rest of the storm season, experts said.

In Louisiana, heavy bands of rain are expected all day Monday and “the risk is going to be for that heavy rainfall and potential for flash flooding,” National Weather Service meteorologist Donald Jones said in a Monday morning Facebook Live briefing.

Meteorologists in Louisiana are watching for lingering rainbands, which could drop copious amounts of rain wherever they materialize, as well as “quick, spin-up tornadoes,” said Donald Jones, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

“It’s just a matter of exactly where that’s going to be,” Jones said. “That’s very difficult to predict more than maybe an hour or so in advance.”

In Port Lavaca on the Texas coast, Jimmy May fastened plywood over the windows of his electrical supply company before the storm hit but said he wasn’t concerned about the possible storm surge. He recalled his business had escaped flooding in a previous hurricane that brought a 20-foot (6-meter) storm surge.

“In town, you know, if you’re in the low-lying areas, obviously, you need to get out of there,” he said.

Beryl battered Mexico as a Category 2 hurricane last week, toppling trees but causing no injuries or deaths before weakening to a tropical storm as it moved across the Yucatan Peninsula.

Before hitting Mexico, Beryl wrought destruction in Jamaica, Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Three people were reported dead in Grenada, three in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, three in Venezuela and two in Jamaica.


Valerie Gonzalez reported from McAllen, Texas. Associated Press reporters Corey Williams in Detroit, Valerie Gonzales in McAllen, Texas, Margery A. Beck in Omaha, Nebraska, Hannah Schoenbaum in Salt Lake City and Julie Walker in New York contributed.

Share this story:

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments