After hitting Yucatan Peninsula, Beryl churns in Gulf of Mexico as Texas braces for potential hit

TULUM, Mexico (AP) — After battering Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Beryl moved back into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico where it was expected to regain hurricane strength Saturday before taking aim at the Texas coast, where officials urged residents to brace for a potential hit.

The earliest storm to develop into a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic, Beryl caused at least 11 deaths as it passed through the Caribbean islands earlier in the week. It then battered Mexico as a Category 2 hurricane, toppling trees but causing no injuries or deaths before weakening to a tropical storm as it moved across the peninsula.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center predicted late Friday that Beryl would intensify on Saturday before making landfall, prompting expanded hurricane and storm surge watches.

“There is an increasing risk of damaging hurricane-force winds and life-threatening storm surge in portions of northeastern Mexico and the lower and middle Texas coast late Sunday and Monday,” the center warned.

Texas officials warned the state’s entire coastline to brace for possible flooding, heavy rain and wind as they wait for a more defined path of the storm. On Friday, the hurricane center issued hurricane and storm surge watches for the Texas coast from the mouth of the Rio Grande north to San Luis Pass, less than 80 miles (128.75 kilometers) south of Houston.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the acting governor while Gov. Greg Abbott is traveling in Taiwan, issued a pre-emptive disaster declaration for 40 counties.

“Everyone along the (Texas) coast should be paying attention this storm,” Patrick said. “We hope and we pray for nothing more than a rain event.”

Some Texas coastal cities called for voluntary evacuations in low-lying areas prone to flooding, banned beach camping and urged tourists traveling on the July 4 holiday weekend to move recreational vehicles from coastal parks. In Corpus Christi, city officials announced it had distributed 10,000 sandbags in less than two hours Friday, exhausting its supply.

Beryl already spread destruction in Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Barbados this week. Three people have been reported dead in Grenada, three in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, three in Venezuela and two in Jamaica, officials said.

Mexican authorities had moved some tourists and residents out of low-lying areas around the Yucatan Peninsula before landfall, but tens of thousands remained to tough out the strong winds and storm surge. Much of the area around Tulum is just a few yards (meters) above sea level.

The city was plunged into darkness when the storm knocked out power as it came ashore. Screeching winds set off car alarms across the town. Wind and rain continued to whip the seaside city and surrounding areas Friday morning. Army brigades roved the streets of the tourist city, clearing fallen trees and power lines.

After seeing Beryl tear through the Caribbean, 37-year-old Lucía Nagera Balcaza was among those who stocked up on food and hid away in their homes.

“Thank god, we woke up this morning and everything was all right,” she said. “The streets are a disaster, but we’re out here cleaning up.”

Although no dead or wounded have been reported, nearly half of Tulum continued to be without electricity, said Laura Velázquez, national coordinator of Mexican Civil Protection.

While many in the Yucatan Peninsula took a deep breath, Jamaica and other islands ravaged by the hurricane were still reeling. Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness promised swift relief for residents after visiting one of the worst-affected areas of the island, the southern parish of St Elizabeth on Thursday.

Before the storm hit Mexico, officials had set up shelters in schools and hotels. When the wind began gusting over Tulum’s beaches Thursday, officials on four-wheelers with megaphones rolled along the sand telling people to leave and authorities evacuated beachside hotels. Sea turtle eggs were even moved off beaches threatened by storm surge.

Tourists also took precautions. Lara Marsters, 54, a therapist visiting Tulum from Boise, Idaho, said she had filled up empty water bottles from the tap.

“We’re going to hunker down and stay safe,” she said.


Vertuno reported from Austin, Texas. Associated Press writers John Myers Jr. and Renloy Trail in Kingston, Jamaica; Mark Stevenson and Megan Janetsky in Mexico City; Coral Murphy Marcos in San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Lucanus Ollivierre on Union Island, St. Vincent and Grenadines also contributed to this report.

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