HAVANA, July 7thy (Akkuweather) Hurricane Beryl, a tiny storm over the south-central Atlantic, 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.
Beryl will soon be entering a zone of conditions that are likely to inhibit its further strengthening.
“Because of the small size of Beryl and anticipated weakening, widespread wind damage is not expected,” according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Jake Sojda.
However, there will be some risk to lives and property along the storm’s path. People should take precautions.
“Beryl, the second tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, and the first classified as a hurricane is heading toward the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, and will approach Puerto Rico on Monday,” said Dr. Joel Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather. “While the storm is expected to weaken by the time it reaches Puerto Rico and probably will not be a hurricane, but a weak tropical storm, it still will carry significant moisture, resulting in general rainfall totals of 1 to 3 inches. However, there is likely to be local spots that get up to 6 inches of rain, which could cause local flooding.”
“As we know, Puerto Rico was hard hit last year by Hurricanes Irma and then Maria, and the island is still recovering,” Myers added. “Again, this amount of rain is significant because the infrastructure of Puerto Rico was so damaged last year. Any heavy rainfall is capable of causing flash flooding. This is particularly true in the places that get heavy downpours, particularly low lying and poor drainage areas, and heavy rain, of course, can always trigger dangerous mudslides. Residents of these areas should take precautions to stay safe and out of harm’s way.”
Heavy rain can occur even if Beryl sweeps near or just south of Puerto Rico.
While Beryl is a small storm, drenching showers and thunderstorms may spread out well away from the center as it crosses the northern part of the Caribbean Sea.
On Friday, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello declared a state of emergency due to the potential impacts from Beryl in the coming days.
Steering winds will guide Beryl, most likely in a weakened state, on a northwest path later this weekend into next week.
This path may take Beryl over the Leeward Islands on Sunday and south of Puerto Rico on Monday.
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, lines and property repairs that have been jury-rigged could fail and lead to power outages and other dangers.
“Rainfall from Beryl will be the primary concern from the northern Leeward Islands to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico,” Sojda said.
Enough rain may fall to cause localized flash flooding and mudslides, especially along steep hillsides and in mountainous terrain. The hurricanes from last year have reduced some of the canopy of vegetation that would normally slow down the runoff of this magnitude.
Debris should be cleared from storm drains to allow as much runoff to be channeled away as safely as possible.
Beryl’s small size and forecast weakening near land is not likely to cause a significant storm surge. However, the risk of rough surf and rip currents will increase over the islands, especially along the east- and north-facing shores.
“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 westward into the Caribbean late this weekend,” 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. However, the small size of the storm may also lead to a quick demise once it encounters increasing wind shear near the Caribbean.
Wind shear and proximity to the large islands of 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.