Hurricane Beryl slams into Texas coast

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Boats sit in a marina before the arrival of Hurricane Beryl in Corpus Christi, Texas, on July 7, 2024 [Mark Felix/AFP]

Officials order evacuations in beach towns in the storm’s path but fear not enough people have left.

Hurricane Beryl has brought heavy rainfall and strong winds to the US state of Texas, cutting off electricity to nearly two million homes and businesses, and forcing hundreds of flights to be cancelled.

The hurricane made landfall on Monday in the town of Matagorda with winds of 80 miles per hour (130 kilometres per hour), said the United States National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Registered as a Category 1 hurricane, Beryl is expected to cause “considerable flash and urban flooding” but will likely weaken to a tropical storm later in the day and to a tropical depression on Tuesday, according to the NHC.

Before reaching Texas, Beryl had swept through Jamaica, Grenada, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, at times reaching Category 5 wind strengths, the highest level. It toppled buildings and power lines and killed at least 11 people.

The storm weakened after cutting through the Caribbean but resurged into a Category 1 hurricane as it crossed the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

 

‘Deadly storm’

Ed Gonzalez, the sheriff of Harris County, which encompasses the city of Houston, said on Monday morning that a 53-year-old man died after a tree fell on his home.

The man “was reportedly sitting in house with family, riding out the storm”, Gonzalez said in a social media post. “An oak tree fell on roof and hit rafters”, and the structure then fell on him, the sheriff said.

More than 1.8 million homes and businesses across Texas have lost power as a result of the storm, according to local utilities and PowerOutage.us data.

Internet connectivity monitor NetBlocks on Monday also reported “significant declines” in connectivity in parts of the state, including the Houston area, after Beryl made landfall.

A day earlier, acting Texas Governor Dan Patrick declared 120 counties in the state to be disaster areas, warning that Beryl “will be a deadly storm for people who are directly in that path”.

As the storm approached, residents hurried to board up windows and stock up on fuel.

Texas resident Gary Short said he was most concerned about possible flooding. “I’m more worried about the rain than anything,” he said as he filled up cans with gasoline at a service station on Sunday. “Other than that, not too concerned. Just getting ready.”

Shan Mei Martinez and Mario Martinez attach door braces to secure their back bay-facing door, as residents prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Beryl in Port Lavaca, Texas, U.S. July 7, 2024. REUTERS/Kaylee Greenlee Beal
Shan Mei Martinez and Mario Martinez attach braces to secure their bay-facing door as residents prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Beryl in Port Lavaca, Texas, on July 7 [Kaylee Grenlee Beal/Reuters]

School systems – including the state’s largest in Houston – said they would close while airlines cancelled more than 1,300 flights and officials ordered a smattering of evacuations in beach towns.

Patrick, the acting governor, expressed concern that not enough residents and vacationers in Beryl’s path heeded the warnings to leave, however.

“One of the things that kind of trigger our concern a little bit, we’ve looked at all of the roads leaving the coast and the maps are still green,” he said. “So we don’t see many people leaving.”

Houston Mayor John Whitmire, whose residents are under tornado alert, said: “We have to take Beryl very, very seriously. Our worst enemy is complacency.”

Meanwhile, several counties in southeastern Texas were under a flash flood warning as thunderstorms unleashed up to 15cm (6 inches) of rain, with more expected.

Beryl is the first hurricane since NHC records began to reach the Category 4 level in June and the earliest to hit Category 5 in July.

It is rare for such a powerful storm to form this early in the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from early June to late November.

Scientists said climate change likely plays a role in the rapid intensification of storms such as Beryl because there is more energy in a warmer ocean for them to feed on.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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