Hurricane Beryl makes landfall in Texas with dangerous storm surge, 750,000 without power

Beryl made landfall on the Texas coast near Matagorda early on Monday with a dangerous storm surge and strong winds, knocking out power to more than half a million homes and businesses.

The storm’s centre hit land as a Category 1 hurricane around 4am local time about 85 miles southwest of Houston with top sustained winds of 128.7kph (80mph) while moving north at 19.3kph, the National Weather Service reported.

High waters quickly began closing roads around Houston, which was again under flood warnings after heavy storms in recent months washed out neighbourhoods and knocked out power across the nation’s fourth-largest city.

More than 750,000 customers were without power, many of them around Houston, before daybreak on Monday, according to CenterPoint Energy in Houston. More than 1,000 flights have been cancelled at Houston’s two airports, according to tracking data from FlightAware

Beryl dumped soaking rains across Houston after coming ashore and was expected to bring damaging winds into East Texas, near Louisiana, as the storm pushed north after making landfall.

“Beryl’s moving inland, but this is not the end of the story yet,” said Jack Beven, senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center.

Beryl strengthened and became a hurricane again late on Sunday. The storm had weakened after leaving a path of deadly destruction through parts of Mexico and the Caribbean.

A hurricane warning remains in effect for the Texas coast from Mesquite Bay north to Port Bolivar, the centre said.

Beryl is expected to weaken to a tropical storm on Monday and a tropical depression on Tuesday, the weather service said, forecasting a turn to the northeast and increase in speed on Monday night and on Tuesday.

A Surfside Beach policeman directs traffic away from the city ahead of Hurricane Beryl. Photo: Reuters

The storm’s centre is expected to move over eastern Texas on Monday and then through the lower Mississippi Valley into the Ohio Valley on Tuesday and Wednesday, the weather service said.

People on the Texas coast boarded up windows and left beach towns under an evacuation order. As the storm neared the coast on Sunday, Texas officials warned of power outages and flooding, but also expressed worry that not enough residents and beach holidaymakers in Beryl’s path had heeded warnings to leave.

“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,” said Texas Lieutenant Governorn Dan Patrick, who is serving as the state’s acting governor while Governot Greg Abbott is travelling overseas. “So we don’t see many people leaving.”

Tropical storm winds extended 185 kilometres (115 miles) from the centre and the hurricane centre warned residents to be prepared for possible flash flooding in parts of middle, upper and eastern Texas as well as Arkansas as the storm gradually turns to the north and then northeast later on Monday.

Along the Texas coast, many residents and business owners took the typical storm precautions but also expressed uncertainty about the storm’s intensity.

In Port Lavaca, Jimmy May fastened plywood over the windows of his electrical supply company and said he wasn’t concerned about the possible storm surge. He recalled his business had escaped flooding in a previous hurricane that brought a 6-metre (20-foot) storm surge.

“In town, you know, if you’re in the low-lying areas, obviously, you need to get out of there,” he said.

At the nearby marina, Percy Roberts showed his neighbour Ken Waller how to properly secure his boat as heavy winds rolled in from the bay on Sunday evening.

“This is actually going to be the first hurricane I’m going to be experiencing,” Waller said, noting he is a little nervous but feels safe following Roberts’ lead. “Pray for the best but expect the worst, I guess.”

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 on its way to Texas. The storm ripped off doors, windows and roofs with devastating winds and storm surge, fuelled by the Atlantic’s record warmth.

Three times during its one week of life, Beryl has gained 56kph in wind speed in 24 hours or less, the official weather service definition of rapid intensification.

Beryl’s explosive growth into an unprecedented early whopper of a storm indicates the hot water of the Atlantic and Caribbean and what the Atlantic hurricane belt can expect for the rest of the storm season, experts said.

Texas officials warned people along the entire coastline to prepare for possible flooding, heavy rain and wind. The hurricane warning extended from Baffin Bay, south of Corpus Christi, to Sargent, south of Houston.

Employees at a fuelling station wrap plastic around a fuel pump to protect it from wind and rain due to Hurricane Beryl in Freeport, Texas on Monday. Photo: Reuters

Beryl lurked as another potential heavy rain event for Houston, where storms in recent months have knocked out power across the nation’s fourth-largest city and flooded neighbourhoods. A flash flood watch was in effect for a wide swathe of the Texas coast, where forecasters expected Beryl to dump as much as 25 centimetresof rain in some areas.

Potential storm surges between 1.22 and 2.13 meters (4 and 7 feet) above ground level were forecast around Matagorda. The warnings extended to the same coastal areas where Hurricane Harvey came ashore in 2017 as a Category 4 hurricane, far more powerful than Beryl’s expected intensity by the time the storm reaches landfall.

Those looking to catch a flight out of the area found a closing window for air travel as Beryl moved closer. Hundreds of flights from Houston’s two major commercial airports were delayed by midafternoon on Sunday and dozens more cancelled, according to FlightAware data.

In Corpus Christi, officials asked visitors to cut their trips short and return home early if possible. Residents were advised to secure homes by boarding up windows if necessary and using sandbags to guard against possible flooding.

The White House said on Sunday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had sent emergency responders, search-and-rescue teams, bottled water and other resources along the coast.

Several coastal counties called for voluntary evacuations in low-lying areas that are prone to flooding. Local officials also banned beach camping and urged tourists travelling on the Fourth of July holiday weekend to move recreational vehicles from coastal parks.

Beryl battered Mexico as a Category 2 hurricane last week, toppling trees but causing no injuries or deaths, before weakening to a tropical storm as it moved across the Yucatan Peninsula.

Before hitting Mexico, Beryl wrought destruction in Jamaica, Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Three people were reported dead in Grenada, three in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, three in Venezuela and two in Jamaica.



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