Hurricane Beryl slams into Mexico's coast as a Category 2 storm; 11 dead across the Caribbean

On Tuesday, Beryl became the earliest storm to develop into a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic

Friday, July 5, 2024
Hurricane Beryl slams into Mexico's coast; 11 dead across Caribbean
Hurricane Beryl made landfall in Mexico near Tulum as a Category 2 storm after leaving a trail of destruction across the eastern Caribbean.

TULUM, Mexico -- Hurricane Beryl roared ashore on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula near the resort town of Tulum as a Category 2 storm early Friday, whipping trees and knocking out power after leaving a trail of destruction that killed at least 11 people across the Caribbean.

Beryl was expected to rapidly weaken to a tropical storm as it crosses over the peninsula before reemerging into the Gulf of Mexico and likely regaining hurricane strength, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Once in the warm waters of the Gulf, Beryl 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.

After landfall in Mexico, Beryl's maximum wind speeds dropped, but Tulum will continue to see "large and destructive waves," the hurricane center said. The area faces heavy rainfall and potential flooding in the coming hours, according to forecasts from Mexico's National Water Commission.

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 Lucia 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.

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.

The storm's center Friday morning was about 15 miles (25 kilometers) north-northwest of Tulum and moving west-northwest at 16 mph (about 26 kph), the hurricane center said. Beryl had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph), making it a Category 1 hurricane,

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.

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.