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Hurricane Beryl hits Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula – risk for Texas increases

Hurricane Beryl made landfall near Cozumel, Mexico, on Friday morning as a Category 2 hurricane, devastating the coast and knocking out power in several resort towns. The storm is now moving inland and will weaken briefly before emerging over the Gulf of Mexico late Friday and gaining strength.

Concern is growing in Texas as the National Hurricane Center predicts the storm will arrive between Sunday night and Monday. By then, Beryl will likely have regained hurricane status and strengthened enough to move ashore.

“There is an increasing risk of hurricane-force winds, life-threatening storm surges, and flooding from heavy rainfall across portions of northeastern Mexico and the lower and central Texas coast late Sunday and Monday,” the Hurricane Center wrote Friday.

Beryl hit the Mexican coast north of the resort town of Tulum around 6 a.m., whipping palm trees with 160 km/h winds and pounding rain in communities. Widespread power outages occurred but no casualties were reported, said Laura Velázquez, the national coordinator of civil protection.

From the region, she told reporters at President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's morning press conference that about half of Tulum and half of the territory of Isla Mujeres, another tourist destination, were without electricity. There were also power outages in several districts on the island of Cozumel.

The strong winds knocked down trees and some power poles, but no one was killed or seriously injured, Velázquez said. Authorities rescued several people from flooded homes.

Cancun International Airport has canceled nearly 300 flights and Tulum Airport is not scheduled to reopen until Sunday.

Authorities urged residents and tourists to stay in their homes due to downed power lines and trees.

The storm did not cause significant erosion of the region's famous white sand beaches, said Governor Mara Lezama, citing reports from the hotel association.

The hurricane also did not appear to cause major damage to five-star hotels, but it did devastate the flimsy homes of poorer residents in coastal communities. On TikTok, people described how the wind ripped roof panels off modest homes.

“Last night the wind came up and our power went out,” said a man who identified himself as John in Playa del Carmen, south of Cancún. “At dawn the roof panels of our neighbors' house flew off in front of us. The [car] the alarms never stop ringing.”

One woman, Leslie Diaz, posted a video from Playa del Carmen on TikTok shortly before the hurricane arrived. Her dog was hiding under the covers in fear.

“It's almost 5 a.m. and there's a terrible rumbling,” she said, the wind whistling in the background. “It hasn't reached land yet, but it's already very strong.”

The region is used to hurricanes; in 2005, Hurricane Wilma killed eight people and caused billions of dollars in damage. So Mexican authorities took extensive precautions this time, sending nearly 10,000 soldiers, marines and national guardsmen to help victims and patrol the rain-soaked streets.

With the storm on a collision course with the western coast of the Gulf of Mexico, the Hurricane Center plans to issue tropical storm, storm surge and hurricane warnings for parts of Texas and northeastern Mexico.

As of 11 a.m. Eastern Time, Beryl's center was located over the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula, about 680 miles east-southeast of Brownsville, Texas, and moving west-northwest at 16 mph. Peak winds had decreased to 85 mph, making Beryl a Category 1 hurricane. Weakening will continue as the storm moves over the Yucatan; it is forecast to be downgraded to a tropical storm late Friday.

But as Beryl moves west-northwest through the Gulf of Mexico, where water temperatures are around 30 degrees Celsius, the Hurricane Center is predicting at least a gradual strengthening this weekend.

Model simulations differ regarding the speed and extent of beryl's recovery.

Hurricane-specific models largely do not predict rapid intensification. But large-scale models such as the American and European models are forecasting what the Hurricane Center describes as “significant deepening as Beryl approaches the coast.” Unusually warm waters and favorable upper-level wind patterns could favor rapid intensification.

But Beryl could be prevented from strengthening again if the core of the storm becomes too destroyed and cannot rebuild itself after crossing Yucatán.

Another unknown is where exactly Beryl will make landfall. Models predict that Beryl will parallel the coast of Tamaulipas, Mexico, and Texas as it approaches, meaning small fluctuations in its orbit will have dramatic effects on its final landfall location.

A significant influence on the forecast trajectory is a collapse in the jet stream over the central United States, which will pull Beryl northward. But when and where this pull will occur remains to be seen. If Beryl is stronger, it is more likely to be pulled northward toward the lower and central Texas coast. But if it is weaker, there is a greater chance it will hit northeastern Mexico.

For those in northern Mexico or southern Texas, it's a good time to prepare for possible hurricane impacts. A Category 1 or 2 landfall is most likely, but a major Category 3 hurricane is not entirely impossible if Beryl strengthens faster than expected. “Those in these areas should closely monitor forecast updates,” the Hurricane Center wrote.

The weather service in Brownsville, Texas, predicts rain of between 10 and 15 centimeters for the region, with precipitation expected to reach up to 25 centimeters.

“Rain is not the only danger associated with Beryl,” the weather service wrote. “High risk of rip currents[s]Storm surge causing coastal damage and destructive wave action including flooding, high surf, and tropical storm force winds. Beryl could also bring some weak, short-lived tornadoes to the region.”

The weather service in Corpus Christi, Texas, also urged the population to prepare and pointed out the danger of coastal flooding, a high risk of surf backflow and heavy rainfall.

Beryl became the first hurricane of the 2024 season and the earliest Category 5 hurricane ever to form in the Atlantic on Monday evening. The storm – fueled by record-breaking warm ocean waters – broke records for its strength and the speed at which it intensified so early in the season, baffling meteorologists.

The storm first hit Grenada, St. Vincent and other Caribbean islands on Monday, leaving widespread destruction. – particularly on the Grenada islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique – and killed at least five people. Three more deaths were reported in Venezuela.

On Carriacou, home to about 7,000 people, the hurricane has “completely devastated,” said Allison Caton, 50, owner of the Paradise Beach Club, a restaurant and bar on the devastated Paradise Beach. Many islanders are now living in temporary accommodation in schools.

The storm hit Jamaica's south coast on Wednesday, bringing heavy rain and wind gusts of over 130 km/h that destroyed homes and downed trees and power lines. At least two deaths were reported and around 65 percent of Jamaica Public Service Co. customers – about 400,000 households – were without power by Thursday, the BBC reported.

The storm brought strong winds and heavy rain to the Cayman Islands on Wednesday evening before heading toward the Yucatán Peninsula.

Gabriela Martinez, Jason Samenow, Amanda Coletta, Kim Bellware, Samantha Schmidt and Anumita Kaur contributed to this report.