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Belize awaits a weakened Hurricane Beryl’s effects

HeadlineBelize awaits a weakened Hurricane Beryl’s effects

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. July 4, 2024

Around 6:00 a.m. today, residents of the Belize District awoke to heavy showers of rain accompanied by lightning and thunderstorms that lasted less than an hour, but surprisingly already caused flooding in various areas throughout Belize City.

With a Tropical Storm Watch in effect from Belize City to Corozal, including the islands of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, residents could not help but believe it was Hurricane Beryl’s arrival.

However, according to Chief Meteorologist Ronald Gordon, this morning’s rainfall was not directly caused by Hurricane Beryl. Instead, the heavy rain was due to the moisture being pushed ahead of the hurricane, which is expected to continue throughout the day and intensify as the storm moves closer to Belize.

“As of 6:00 this morning, Hurricane Beryl was just southwest of the Cayman Islands. In terms of position from Belize, it was about 410 miles east by north of Corozal Town. Beryl continues to move on a west northwesterly track, currently at 20 mph,” he explained during this morning’s weather update alongside NEMO (National Emergency Management Organization). The hurricane, once a formidable Category 5 storm, has weakened significantly and is now classified as a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph.

Beryl is expected to continue on its current path, heading towards the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. It is predicted to make landfall north of Belize’s border late tonight or early tomorrow morning, likely further weakening to a Category 1 hurricane by then.

Despite the weakening, Belize is still expected to experience moderate to heavy rainfall, with gusty winds reaching tropical storm strength. The northern regions of the country, including San Pedro (Ambergris Caye), are expected to be the most affected, with rain and strong winds persisting for the next 24 to 36 hours.

Forecasters predict at least 4 to 6 inches of rainfall, which could be even more problematic, given that Corozal’s soil is already saturated from heavy rains last weekend that also caused flooding.

Additionally, sea conditions are also anticipated to become rough, with large, battering waves particularly affecting the northern offshore areas. Authorities have advised operators of small crafts to seek and remain in a safe harbor to avoid the dangerous sea conditions.

In the cayes, residents have begun seeking shelter or evacuating the islands. Up to press time, approximately 4,328 residents had left by boat, and 1,300 by special flights which had been arranged for those wanting to exit the island.

“We want to stress to people that Hurricane Beryl remains a dangerous system. We have seen the damage it has caused to our sister nations in the Caribbean, particularly Grenada, St. Vincent, Barbados, and Jamaica. NEMO is not taking this lightly. We maintain our level of preparedness and our level of alert,” Daniel Mendez, the National Emergency Coordinator, shared.

Earlier this week, Hurricane Beryl significantly impacted the eastern Caribbean islands as a Category 4 storm. Reports indicate that about 95% of homes on the islands of Mayreau and Union Island were either damaged or destroyed.

Tragically, the storm has resulted in approximately nine deaths, including two fatalities in Jamaica —a man and a woman—due to the severe weather conditions on Wednesday.

Damage to coastal infrastructure in the southern parishes was seen, as well as to agriculture and housing in Manchester and St. Elizabeth parishes. Several roads were cut off, power lines were downed, and around 1,000 residents remain in shelters as the country deals with the aftermath of the storm.

Currently, a Hurricane Watch is in effect for the Cayman Islands, where residents are bracing for strong winds, dangerous storm surges, and damaging waves.

“I express our solidarity with our CARICOM brothers and sisters in Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and the Grenadines, who were and are being hit by ferocious Hurricane Beryl,” expressed Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. John Briceño on Wednesday evening. “We understand the challenges they are facing and Belize will do its part to aid in the recovery efforts in our sister Caribbean nations,” he said.

Beryl has made history as the earliest Category 5 hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin, and only the second Category 5 storm recorded in July since 2005. It rapidly intensified from a tropical depression to a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) in just 42 hours. Beryl is also notable as only the third Category 3 hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic during June, following Audrey in 1957 and Alma in 1966.

As Belize continues to prepare for the potential impact of Hurricane Beryl, NEMO is urging residents to stay informed, heed safety advisories, and take all necessary precautions to protect themselves and their property.

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