Caribbean countries prepare for life-threatening hurricane

Hurricane Beryl has regained strength, prompting urgent warnings of life-threatening winds and dangerous storm surges across the Caribbean. Hurricane warnings are now in effect for Barbados, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tobago.

As the storm approaches, airports and businesses have shut down, and residents are being urged to seek shelter. Dozens of flights were cancelled on Sunday night as Beryl neared, with leaders reminding people how important it is to pay attention to the warnings.

Beryl’s intensity has been fluctuating. After briefly weakening, it was upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane on Monday. 

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that these fluctuations are expected to continue but cautioned that parts of the Windward Islands should brace for “potentially catastrophic wind damage.” St Vincent and the Grenadines, along with Grenada, face the highest risk.

Hurricane shelters opened at 18:00 local time on Sunday. Meteorologists note that it is uncommon for a hurricane of this magnitude to form so early in the year. 

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has forecast up to seven major hurricanes in the North Atlantic this year, which is much higher than the average of three per season. They attribute this to record-high sea surface temperatures.

Experts have also commented on the rapid development of Beryl. Hurricane specialist Sam Lillo told the Associated Press that the storm intensified from a tropical depression to a major hurricane—Category 3 or above—in just 42 hours.

In response to the warnings, much of the region has taken precautionary measures. Shops have closed, and residents have stocked up on fuel and groceries. Grenada has declared a state of emergency, and St Lucia has implemented a “national shutdown,” ordering schools and businesses to remain closed.

In a national address, the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves said: “It is not a joke The roof, certainly the old part of the roof, may not survive winds at 150mph (241 km/h). I am making preparations to go downstairs.”

Barbados prime minister Mia Mottley, also reminded citizens: “We need to be ready. You and I know when these things happen, it is better to plan for the worst and pray for the best. Do not let your guard down.”

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