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Hurricane Beryl losing strength, but may still impact Caribbean

MONTEGO BAY, July 7, 2018 - As Dominica recovers from the battering it received last year from Hurricane Maria, the CARICOM member state is now bracing for an impact from the first storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, Hurricane Beryl, which is projected to take a path over the northern Caribbean.

As of early Saturday morning, Beryl was moving west-northwestward at about 14 mph (22 km/h) and had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 km/h). Hurricane-force winds extend outward from the center a mere 10 miles. Locally drenching showers and thunderstorms extended much farther away from the center.

The island was placed under a hurricane watch with Dominica’s Deputy Prime Minister Reginald Austrie delivering a three-minute televised address urging nationals to be their brother’s keeper, to prepare and to pray for divine protection.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit is at a Caricom meeting in Jamaica. The first Atlantic hurricane of the season, Beryl is described as small but very powerful.

Austrie told Dominicans Hurricane Beryl was 1,000 miles east of the island on a projected path that indicated it could pass “very close to or over Dominica” in the next two days.

According to weather forcasters, however, Beryl is entering a zone of conditions that are likely to inhibit its further strengthening.

Steering winds will guide Beryl, most likely in a weakened state, on a northwest path later this weekend into next week.

Beryl risks

This path may take the small center of Beryl over the Leeward Islands on Sunday, perhaps near Martinique.

In this area, heavy rainfall and gusts between 60 and 80 mph (65 and 130 km/h) are possible.

On Monday, the center may pass just south of Puerto Rico.

Beryl will not impact the Caribbean islands with the magnitude of the impact of Maria, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller.

"In most cases Beryl's impact on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands will be like a robust tropical wave and not a hurricane," Miller said.


Because of the small size of Beryl and anticipated weakening, widespread wind damage is not expected.

However, there will be some risk to lives and property near the storm's path. People and officials should take precautions.

Localized heavy rainfall poses the greatest threat

"While Beryl is expected to weaken by the time it passes near or south of Puerto Rico, and probably will not be a hurricane but a tropical storm, it will still carry significant moisture, resulting in general rainfall totals of 1 to 3 inches," according to Dr. Joel Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather.

In mountainous terrain, locally heavier to 6 inches is possible.

"This amount of rain is significant because the infrastructure of Puerto Rico was so damaged last year," Dr. Myers said.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit Puerto Rico and other islands hard in 2017. The islands are still recovering.

The hurricanes from last year have reduced some of the canopy of vegetation that would normally slow down runoff.

"Any heavy rainfall is capable of causing flash flooding," Dr. Myers said. "Heavy rain, of course, can always trigger dangerous mudslides."

The risk of localized flash flooding and mudslides will be greatest along steep hillsides and in mountainous terrain as these areas may receive the most frequent downpours and heaviest rainfall.

Localized torrential downpours can occur even if the center of Beryl stays south of the islands.

While Beryl is a small storm, drenching showers and thunderstorms may spread out well north of the center as it crosses the northern part of the Caribbean Sea.

"Residents of these areas should take precautions to stay safe and out of harm's way," Dr. Myers added.

On Friday, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello declared a state of emergency due to the potential impacts from Beryl in the coming days.

The next land mass in the potential path of locally heavy rainfall from Beryl by direct or indirect means will be Hispaniola on Tuesday. Hispaniola is home to the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Beryl's small size and forecast weakening is not likely to cause a significant storm surge. However, the risk of rough surf and rip currents will spread westward through the Lesser and Greater Antilles as the storm moves along.

Small craft should remain in port as Beryl approaches.

Complicating factors from recent hurricanes

Trees that have been trimmed and utility lines and structures that have been properly repaired in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria from 2017 should fair well.

However, power lines and property repairs that have been jury rigged could fail and lead to sporadic power outages and other dangers.

Debris should be cleared from storm drains to allow as much runoff to be channeled away as safely as possible.

Weather factors influencing Beryl

Beryl is likely to weaken over the next several days.

"Beryl is in the middle of a large swath of dry air," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Paul Walker.

"While wind shear is low enough to allow Beryl to survive now, wind shear is projected to increase as the storm moves west-northwestward into the Caribbean late this weekend and continues to move along early next week," Walker said.

Wind shear is the change in wind direction and increase with altitude. Strong wind shear can cause a hurricane or tropical storm to weaken significantly.

Beryl's small circulation may have prevented the storm from drawing in much dry air.

Increasing wind shear and proximity to the large islands of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba would be deterrents for the storm's survival and strengthening, but the storm may still bring heavy squalls and drenching rainfall to part of the region.

Increasing southwesterly wind shear may cause the showers and storms to spread out well north of the center of the storm.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, Tropical Depression 3 has developed off the coast of the Carolinas and may become Tropical Storm Chris over the weekend.

Last modified onSaturday, 07 July 2018 11:24

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