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Hurricane Beryl makes landfall on Texas coast

July 8, 2024

One person has been killed after Storm Beryl hit the Texas coast, forcing evacuations and port closures and causing power cuts. The weather system had already killed 11 people in the Caribbean.

Two men board up windows as they prepare for Beryl's arrival, Sunday, July 7, 2024, in Palaciios, Texas
Texas officials told coastal residents to expect power outages and flooding as Beryl regained hurricane strength before making landfall early MondayImage: Eric Gay/AP Photo/picture alliance

Hurricane Beryl made landfall on Monday on the coast of the southern US state of Texas near the town of Matagorda.

The Category 5 hurricane left nearly two million homes and businesses without power, forced hundreds of flight cancellations, closed oil ports and forced evacuations.

One 53-year-old man was confirmed to have been killed when an oak tree fell on the roof of his house where he was sitting out the storm with his wife and children, who were unharmed, according to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported that the storm moved over land at around 4 a.m. Central Standard Time, saying that the hurricane was about 85 miles (135 kilometers) south-west of Houston, packing maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph).

Residents hunker down

Residents on the Texas coast boarded up windows and evacuated beach towns. 

"We have to take Beryl very, very seriously. Our worst enemy is complacency," Houston Mayor John Whitmire said late Sunday.

He added that he wanted residents in Houston "to know the conditions that you go to sleep under tonight will not be the same that you wake up to in the morning."

Major ports close operations

The largest ports in Texas suspended operations and vessel traffic on Sunday as the threat from Hurricane Beryl loomed.

The ports of Corpus Christi, Houston, Galveston, Freeport and Texas City said they shut down after condition "Zulu" was set by Coast Guard captains on Sunday. 

Corpus Christ is the leading crude oil export hub in the country. Texas City and Freeport are also major centers for shipping oil and refined products on the US Gulf Coast.

Port closures could bring a temporary stop to crude exports, oil shipments to refineries and motor fuels from those hubs. 

What else do we know about the storm?

A hurricane warning was declared for a large stretch of the Texan coast. Tropical storm warnings were issued for other areas.

Texas officials warned coastal residents to prepare for possible flooding, heavy rain and wind.

"We're expecting the storm to make landfall somewhere on the Texas coast sometime on Monday if the current forecast is correct," NHC specialist Jack Beven was cited by the Associated Press news agency as saying.

"Should that happen, it'll most likely be a Category 1 hurricane," he said.

As of Saturday night, Beryl had sustained winds of 60 miles per hour (95 kilometers per hour), according to the NHC. The storm caused at least 11 deaths as it passed through the Caribbean earlier this week.

It hit Mexico as a Category 2 hurricane but did not cause any casualties.

It weakened to a tropical storm as it passed through southeastern Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and is expected to do so again in Texas as it moves inland. 

"Beryl is expected to weaken to a tropical storm later today and to a tropical depression on Tuesday," the NHC said on Monday. "Steady-to-rapid weakening is expected as the center moves inland."

Hurricane Beryl charges toward Mexico, Texas

Atlantic hurricanes getting stronger

Scientists say that Atlantic region has seen more severe storms in recent hurricane seasons, with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicting an 85% chance of an "above-normal" season this year.

The United Nations' weather and climate agency WMO said Beryl developed into a category 5 storm substantially earlier than expected.

Tropical cyclones gain most of their energy from the evaporative heat of the water vapor they pick up over the ocean, meaning that warming sea temperatures due to climate change are creating better conditions for the emergence of hurricanes.

sdi/rc (AP, Reuters, AFP)