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Hurricane Beryl targets the Mexican resort of Tulum as a Category 3 storm

TULUM, Mexico (AP) — Hurricane Beryl raged early Friday on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula near the resort town of Tulum, whipping down trees and knocking out power after leaving a trail of devastation that left at least 11 people dead in the Caribbean.

Beryl struck Mexico as a Category 2 hurricane but weakened over land. According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, it is expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm before reentering the Gulf of Mexico and likely regaining hurricane strength.

Once Beryl reaches the warm waters of the Gulf, it is forecast to move toward northern Mexico near the Texas border, an area that was soaked by Tropical Storm Alberto just a few weeks ago.

Beryl caused destruction in Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Barbados this week after becoming the first Atlantic storm to become a Category 5 hurricane. Three people were killed in Grenada, three in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, three in Venezuela and two in Jamaica, officials said.

After making landfall in Mexico, Beryl’s maximum wind speeds subsided, but Tulum will continue to experience “large and destructive waves,” the hurricane center said. According to forecasts from the Mexican Water Commission, the region is at risk of heavy rains and possible flooding in the next few hours.

Mexican authorities had evacuated some tourists and residents from low-lying areas around the Yucatan Peninsula before landfall, but tens of thousands stayed to brave the strong winds and expected storm surge. Much of the area around Tulum is just a few meters above sea level.

As the storm came ashore, the city’s power supply failed. Howling winds set off car alarms throughout the city. Wind and rain were still lashing the coastal city and surrounding areas on Friday morning. Army brigades roamed the streets of the tourist town, clearing downed trees and power lines.

After watching Beryl sweep through the Caribbean, 37-year-old Lucía Nagera Balcaza was among those stocking up on food and hiding in their homes.

“Thank God we woke up this morning and everything was fine,” she said. “The roads are a disaster, but we’re out here cleaning up.”

Although there have been no reports of deaths or injuries, nearly half of Tulum remains without electricity, said Laura Velázquez, national coordinator of Mexican civil protection.

While many on the Yucatan Peninsula were breathing deeply, Jamaica and other hurricane-ravaged islands were still in distress. As of Friday morning, 55 percent of Jamaica was still without power and most of the country was without running water, according to government figures.

Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness promised swift assistance to residents affected by Hurricane Beryl after visiting one of the worst-hit areas of the island, the southern parish of St. Elizabeth, on Thursday afternoon.

“I know some of you are experiencing discomfort and displacement and I want to assure you that the government will act as quickly as possible to provide you with the assistance you need,” he said.

The storm’s center was located about 95 kilometers northwest of the city of Dzilam on Friday morning and was moving west-northwest at 26 km/h, Mexican authorities said. Beryl had maximum sustained winds of 140 km/h, making it a Category 1 hurricane.

In Corpus Christi, Texas, where authorities are preparing for the possibility that Beryl could move north, potentially bringing flooding, strong winds and dangerous currents, the city said it had distributed 10,000 sandbags in less than two hours on Friday, exhausting its supply. By Wednesday, the city had already distributed 14,000 sandbags.

Before the storm reached Mexico, authorities had set up emergency shelters in schools and hotels. When the wind began to blow across the beaches of Tulum on Thursday, officials rode across the sand on quads with megaphones, urging people to leave the beach. Authorities evacuated beach hotels. Even sea turtle eggs were removed from beaches threatened by the storm surge.

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

“We will stay safe and secure,” she said.

Earlier this week, the hurricane damaged or destroyed 95 percent of homes on two islands in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, capsized fishing boats in Barbados, ripped off roofs and caused power outages in Jamaica.

On Union Island, part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a man who identified himself as Captain Baga described the effects of the storm, including that he had filled two 7,570-litre rubber water tanks in preparation.

“I tied them down on six sides and watched as the wind lifted the tanks and carried them away – filled with water,” he said on Thursday. “I’m a sailor and I would never have believed that the wind could do what I saw. If anyone had ever told me that the wind could do such a thing, I would have told them they were lying!”

There were rubbles of houses lying all over the island that looked as if they had exploded.

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

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