Jeff Masters Weather Blog

Hurricane Beryl weakens, spares the Cayman Islands » Yale Climate Connections

Hurricane Beryl spared the Cayman Islands a direct hit on Thursday morning, passing about 50 miles to the south of Grand Cayman Island between 6-8 a.m. local time. Peak winds measured at Owen Roberts International Airport were sustained at 44 mph, gusting to 54 mph. The Cayman Compass reported that Beryl knocked out power to over 3,000 customers on Grand Cayman, but there were no reports of serious damage.

At 11 a.m. EDT Thursday, Beryl was at the low end of the Category 3 range with 115 mph winds and a central pressure of 971 mb, located about 330 miles east-southeast of Tulum, Mexico, headed west-northwest at 18 mph.

Beryl continuing to exceed expectations

Beryl has consistently overachieved, keeping its intensity at the high end of model expectations, and the hurricane’s behavior today is no exception. Despite experiencing high wind shear of at least 20 knots for more than a day, plus some disruption from passing by the high mountains of Jamaica, the hurricane has only grudgingly weakened. Though Beryl’s eye was no longer apparent on satellite loops Thursday afternoon, Cayman Islands radar and data from the Hurricane Hunters showed that Beryl’s eye remained intact.

Remarkably, Beryl maintained Category 4 or 5 strength for a full three and half days (84 hours), from 12Z July 1 to 0Z July 4, before finally weakening to a category 3 storm at 6Z July 4. As documented by Michael Lowry in his latest Substack post, this is something only 11 hurricanes in the satellite era (since 1966) have accomplished. Ten of the 11 hurricanes did so in September or October, with none before August.

Figure 1. Number of consecutive hours spent at category 4 strength or higher by Atlantic hurricanes, 1966-2023. Beryl did so for 84 hours (red line). (Image credit: Michael Lowry)

Southern Jamaica reeling from Beryl

Beryl delivered a severe pounding to southern Jamaica on Wednesday. The storm’s center passed about 45 miles south of capital city of Kingston, where the peak winds on Wednesday afternoon were sustained at 48 mph, gusting to 81 mph. A personal weather on the northeast side of Kingston recorded 10.60 inches of rain on Wednesday, and numerous stations across the island recorded more than four inches of rain.

Figure 2. Visible satellite image with lightning of Hurricane Beryl on Wednesday afternoon, July 3, as it passed along the southern coast of Jamaica. (Image credit: NOAA/RAMMB-CIRA/Colorado State University)

After passing Kingston, Beryl slid along the southern coast of the island, with the northern (stronger) eyewall of the hurricane scraping along the southwestern coast. Beryl was a category 4 storm with 140 mph winds at the time, and hurricane-force winds extended out 40-45 miles from the center. This was Jamaica’s nearest major hurricane pass since category 3 Gilbert plowed directly across the island in September 1988. There are no records of sustained hurricane-force winds in Jamaica any earlier than July 31, according to independent hurricane scholar Michael Chenoweth.

Heavy damage was reported across southern Jamaica, with “significant numbers of roofs lost, houses destroyed, trees uprooted, and almost all roads impassable,” reported the Jamaica Observer. Beryl knocked out power to 65% of the island’s customers, and at least two deaths are being blamed on the storm.

A Friday morning landfall in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula

Beryl’s west-northwesterly track is expected to bring it on Friday morning over Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, an area well experienced with hurricanes. The most recent hurricane to hit the region was Hurricane Grace of 2021, which made landfall near Tulum as a category 1 storm with 85 mph winds. Grace knocked out power to over 700,000 customers in the Yucatan, and caused minor damage to 20 buildings.

Wind shear will continue to be moderate to high as Beryl approaches the Yucatan, so the hurricane should be weakening, and will most likely be at category 1 strength at landfall. Landfall is likely to occur between 4 and 7 a.m EDT Friday near Tulum.

Figure 3. Rainfall forecast for Beryl issued at 8 a.m. EDT Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Image credit: NHC)

After the Yucatán: a Gulf of Mexico landfall in the U.S. or Mexico

Beryl’s passage over the Yucatán Peninsula will take about 9 to 15 hours. By Saturday morning, Beryl will be in the southern Gulf of Mexico, where conditions favor at least a modest resurgence. An upper low now over the western Gulf will retreat and an upper high will build in, setting up low to moderate wind shear and potentially favorable upper-level outflow. Record-warm waters for early July near 30 degrees Celsius (86°F) with a high ocean heat content will be present, and the atmosphere will be moderately moist.

Tugging Beryl northwestward over time will be a large upper trough dipping into the central United States. Track models and ensembles are in increasing agreement that Beryl’s track will gradually take on a northwestward and then northward component as it starts to feel the influence of this trough. As of Thursday morning (6Z), NOAA’s four hurricane-tailored intensity models all show a strong tropical storm or Category 1 landfall in northeast Mexico or southern Texas late Sunday or early Monday, which coincides well with the National Hurricane Center’s forecast cone.

Torrential rains (perhaps a foot or more locally) will likely spread well inland from the landfall location across northeast Mexico and into southwest and central Texas late Sunday and Monday. Such rains would pose a localized flash flood risk but could serve more of a boon than bane to areas still wrestling with major drought. More rain could fall in these areas later next week if 96L follows in Beryl’s tracks (see below). High surf and rip currents can be expected to develop well north of Beryl along the western U.S. Gulf Coast this holiday weekend.

Texas hurricane history in July

If Beryl does make landfall in Texas as a hurricane, it would be among a select few to have done so during July. Almost all of those arrived later in the month, closer to the peak of hurricane season. The most recent such landfall was Hanna, the first of a record-tying six hurricanes to make U.S. landfall during the hyperactive 2020 Atlantic season (and the basin’s earliest “H” storm on record). Striking South Padre Island on July 23 with top winds of 90 mph, Hanna brought a significant storm surge to the Corpus Christi area and caused $1.2 billion in damage (2020 USD), mainly due to flooding from torrential rains in southern Texas and northern Mexico. Hanna killed 9 people.

In the NOAA historical hurricanes database, which extends back to 1851, here are the only hurricane-strength landfalls for Texas in July, as detailed in Wikipedia’s excellent annual Atlantic summaries:

  • Hurricane One: July 15, 1866 (Cat 2 near Port Lavaca)
  • Hurricane One: July 5, 1891 (Cat 1 east of Bay City)
  • Hurricane Two: July 21, 1909 (Cat 3 near Lake Jackson)
  • Hurricane Three: July 25, 1934 (Cat 1 near Rockport)
  • The “Surprise” Hurricane: July 27, 1943 (Cat 2 on the Bolivar Peninsula). A foray by U.S. Air Force Lt. Colonel Joe Duckworth into the storm later gained fame as the first “hurricane hunter” flight, though Duckworth himself had actually flown into the 1933 Chesapeake-Potomac hurricane as a commercial pilot for Eastern Air Transport Service. See “Before the Hurricane Hunters: Storm Patrols and the Lost Hurricanes” by Neal Dorst in the Jan/Feb 2024 edition of Weatherwise (PDF version).
  • Debra: July 25, 1959 (Cat 1 just west of Galveston)
  • Claudette: July 15, 2003 (Cat 1 near Port Lavaca). Note that a different Claudette, also in Texas in July, produced the largest 24-hour rainfall on record for the contiguous U.S.: 42.00 inches at Alvin on July 25-26, 1979.
  • Dolly: July 23, 2008 (Cat 1 on South Padre Island)
  • Hanna: July 25, 2020 (Cat 1 on Padre Island)

96L remains disorganized

A tropical wave designated Invest 96L is spreading heavy showers across the central Caribbean today as it speeds west to west-northwestward at 20-25 mph. The system brought wind gusts of nearly 60 mph St. Lucia and Barbados on Wednesday. Satellite images on Thursday afternoon showed that 96L had a modest-sized area of heavy thunderstorms with poor organization.

Dry air and moderate to high wind shear will affect 96L this week, and the system is not likely to develop in the Caribbean. The system is expected to cross Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Monday and enter the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, when conditions for development may improve. In their 8 a.m. EDT Thursday Tropical Weather Outlook, the National Hurricane Center gave 96L two-day and seven-day odds of development of 10% and 20%, respectively. The next name on the Atlantic list of storms is Debby.

A record-late start in the Eastern Pacific for the second consecutive year

Tropical Depression 1-E debuted in the Eastern Pacific at 11 a.m. EDT Thursday, about 175 miles southwest of Manzanillo. The depression is not expected to develop further as it moves away from the coast, and it formed too late to avoid setting a new record for the latest start to the Eastern Pacific season in 59 years of satellite-era data going back to 1966. The latest season start was just last year, when the eventual Hurricane Adrian first became a tropical depression on June 27, 2023. The latest “A” storm on record was Ava, which formed on July 3, 1969, following two tropical depressions about a month earlier.

Apart from Beryl, the Northern Hemisphere tropics have been remarkably placid so far in 2024. The total amount of accumulated cyclone energy in the North Pacific and North Indian oceans as of July 4 was a mere 11.6, compared to an average for the date of 66.8, and there have been just two named storms in those basins, compared to an average to date of 9.4, according to real-time statistics from Colorado State University. Adding the Atlantic brings the hemisphere-wide ACE total up to 40.3, compared to an average to date of 69.6.

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