Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Tropical Storm Beryl chugged toward the southeast Caribbean on Saturday and could strengthen into the year’s first hurricane before reaching Barbados late Sunday.

A hurricane watch was issued for Barbados as the island’s meteorological service warned of flash flooding and power outages. Beryl is expected to strengthen into a powerful Category 2 storm before reaching Barbados, with its center forecast to pass some 26 miles (45 kilometers) south of the island, said Sabu Best, the meteorological service’s director.

On Saturday, Beryl was located about 890 miles (1,435 kilometers) east-southeast of Barbados, with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph). It was moving west at 21 mph (33 kph).

Forecasters say nearby islands that should prepare for Beryl include Martinique, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Warm waters are fueling Beryl, with ocean heat content in the deep Atlantic the highest on record for this time of year, according to Brian McNoldy, University of Miami tropical meteorology researcher.

Beryl is the strongest June tropical storm on record that far east in the tropical Atlantic, noted Philip Klotzbach, Colorado State University hurricane researcher.

“We need to be ready,” Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley said in a public address late Friday. “You and I know when these things happen, it is better to plan for the worst and pray for the best.”

She noted that thousands of people are in Barbados for the Twenty20 World Cup cricket final, with India and South Africa playing in the capital, Bridgetown, on Saturday.

Some fans, like Shashank Musku, a 33-year-old physician who lives in Pittsburgh, were rushing to change their flights to leave ahead of the storm.

Musku has never experienced a hurricane: “I don’t plan on being in one, either.”

He and his wife, who are rooting for India, found out about Beryl thanks to a taxi driver who mentioned the storm.

Beryl is the second named storm in what is predicted to be a busy hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 in the Atlantic. Earlier this month, Tropical Storm Alberto came ashore in northeast Mexico with heavy rains that resulted in four deaths.

“The development of a tropical storm this far east in the tropical Atlantic is uncommon, though not unprecedented,” wrote Michael Lowry, a Florida-based hurricane expert, in a forecast. “Only five named storms on record have formed in the tropical Atlantic east of the Caribbean.”

Of those, only one hurricane of record has formed east of the Caribbean in June, he added.

Mark Spence, manager of a hostel in Barbados, said in a phone interview that he was calm about the approaching storm.

“It’s the season. You can get a storm any time,” he said. “I’m always prepared. I always have enough food in my house.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts the 2024 hurricane season is likely to be well above average, with between 17 and 25 named storms. The forecast calls for as many as 13 hurricanes and four major hurricanes.

An average Atlantic hurricane season produces 14 named storms, seven of them hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Beryl is expected to drop up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rain in Barbados and nearby islands, and a high surf warning of waves up to 13 feet (4 meters) was in effect.

The storm is approaching the southeast Caribbean just days after the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago reported major flooding in the capital of Port-of-Spain as a result of an unrelated weather event.

Meanwhile, a no-name storm earlier this June dumped more than 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain on parts of South Florida, stranding numerous motorists on flooded streets and pushing water into some homes in low-lying areas.

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