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San Antonio watches Hurricane Beryl devastate Mexico’s Yucatán

Sweltering Independence Day in San Antonio was followed by the first of several days of anxiety as residents from Laredo to Alamo City to Houston turned their attention to the deadly Hurricane Beryl heading their way.

On Friday morning, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued a grim analysis that moved Beryl’s landfall point a little further north, between Brownsville and Corpus Christi. Beryl could still be a hurricane when it reaches the Texas coast late Sunday evening or early Monday morning.

Forecasters say San Antonio could experience tropical storm rain and winds from Beryl as early as Tuesday morning, if not sooner.

Hurricane Beryl made landfall near Tulum early Friday as a Category 2 storm after already cutting a devastating path through the Caribbean. It is expected to gain strength as it moves across the Gulf of Mexico.

That may be a relief after a long holiday weekend of summer heat and African dust. But even if Beryl weakens to a tropical depression on its way to south-central Texas — which became less likely by Friday — it could still unleash dangerous flooding and damaging winds. The latest weather forecast called for Beryl to move into the San Antonio area as a tropical storm.

After killing at least seven people in the Caribbean, Storm Beryl hit Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula late Thursday.

Archaeological sites, schools and shops have been closed since Thursday morning. More than 340 flights from Tulum, Cancún and Merida airports were canceled, leaving many tourists stranded.

Before the storm arrived, residents were evacuated in parts of Quintana Roo, including Punta Allen, where the hurricane occurred.

Mexican authorities urged people in Quintana Roo to seek refuge in one of the 112 emergency shelters in the region. In the state of Yucatán, 1,170 emergency shelters had already been set up before the storm.

The NHC stated: “Beryl is expected to emerge over the southwestern Gulf of Mexico this evening and then move northwestward toward northeastern Mexico and southern Texas through the end of the weekend.”

“Sinking re-intensification is expected as Beryl moves back over the Gulf of Mexico,” the alert warned.

The storm would also likely affect oil prices.

In early July, when Beryl’s path was still unclear, Matt Smith, energy analyst at Kpler, told the Texas Standard that “if the storm moves more toward the eastern part of the Gulf, it will trigger a stronger uptrend for oil prices because it will likely cripple offshore production.”

However, he added: “If the oil moves more towards the western part of the Gulf – and so comes ashore along the coast from Texas to Louisiana – then that is a negative trend for oil, but a positive trend for refined products because refineries could be damaged or at least taken offline. So no oil is being consumed while no products are being produced.”

Texas is preparing

On Wednesday, Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. issued a voluntary evacuation order to people with RVs and other “conspicuous vehicles” parked at Isla Blanca Park, Andy Bowie Park and Adolph Thomae, Jr. Park county parks in Arroyo City.

On Thursday, A statement from Governor Greg Abbott explained that he “has directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to raise the State Emergency Operations Center’s readiness level to Level II (Escalated Response Conditions) on Friday morning.”

The statement added that TDEM will prepare its resources for deployment before Beryl hits the state. TDEM issued its instructions here.

On Thursday, Kleberg County Judge Rudy Madrid ordered a “voluntary evacuation for Loyola Beach, Baffin Bay and all low-lying areas.” He also issued guidelines for emergency shelters and people with RVs.

Hidalgo, Willacy and Kleberg counties and the cities of Brownsville, Kingsville, Mission, Edinburg and Weslaco also had sandbag distributions planned for this weekend. The distribution event in Corpus Christi was canceled because sandbags ran out Friday morning.

The US military in the region also prepared itself. On Thursday, Corpus Christi Air Base reported that the “Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness Three (TCCOR 3)” now applies to the Coastal Bend region.

The Texas Department of Public Safety reminded all residents to prepare for the very busy hurricane season in 2024. Statement on Thursday did the same thing.

They warned that tropical weather in the Gulf of Mexico is moving rapidly inland, triggering flash floods that can inundate homes, and that winds can down power lines and plunge communities into darkness.

Authorities may order evacuations, and residents should be prepared to move quickly to safer parts of the state. They advised residents to study hurricane evacuation maps and identify at least two routes they could take – a main route and an alternate route.

An emergency kit should contain water, non-perishable food, medicines, first aid supplies, flashlights, batteries, a battery-operated radio, personal hygiene items and important documents.

Residents have been asked to ensure that much of the package is assembled now and that documents can be quickly found, added to the package and taken away. They should also consider the special needs of elderly or disabled relatives or neighbours.

The Governor’s Texas Hurricane Center website provided similar advice.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also offered disaster advice, with a collection of articles, videos and other resources informing consumers on how to prevent scams, organize important documents before a storm, and get their finances back in order after a severe storm, among other things.

The FTC’s advice was given in several languages, including Ukrainian, Spanish, Tagalog and Arabic.

The season

The Atlantic storm season officially began on June 1 and ends on November 30. Meteorologists predicted that there could be about two dozen named storms in this year’s season, including eleven hurricanes and five major hurricanes.

NHC Director Michael Brennan told Houston Public Media (HPM) that forecasters “expect 17 to 25 named storms of tropical storm strength or higher, of which eight to 13 would develop into hurricanes, and four to seven major hurricanes of category three to five on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale.”

He noted that this year’s hurricane forecast could break a record for NOAA.

Record-high ocean temperatures and the La Niña effect, which eliminates the wind shear that can block hurricanes, created ideal conditions for frequent tropical events this year.

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National Weather Service

So far this season, there have been storms named Alberto, Beryl, and Chris (a short-lived tropical storm in June).

When the list of names is exhausted this year, meteorologists will no longer use additional names from the Greek alphabet, as was the case in 2020. The World Meteorological Organization decided in 2021 that a supplementary list of names should be used instead.

Record-breaking ocean temperatures helped Beryl gain strength as it moved through the Caribbean, making it the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded this early in the year.

African dust

The National Weather Service (NWS) also expected Saharan dust to return to Texas this week.

The edge of the dust cloud would likely float over the southern coast of Texas and then mix with residual smoke from agricultural fires in Mexico and Central America.

Due to dust and smoke, air quality in San Antonio’s Alamo City remains in the “moderate” range, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Smoke from fireworks on Thursday night further increased air pollution in the city.

Residents should take this as a reminder to change the air filters in their homes. They should also have at least one mask with them in case the air quality worsens during their stay. People with heart and lung diseases should limit their time outdoors.

NWS meteorologist Matt Brady said Hurricane Beryl could help dispel the Saharan dust.

While African dust can be a nuisance, it offers significant benefits to the Western Hemisphere overall.

Mose Buchele of KUT explained in a recent report on the dust that it came from “primeval lake dwellers.” “These microscopic diatoms thrived in huge inland lakes in North Africa about 6,000 years ago. When natural climate changes ended the African ‘wet period’, the lakes dried up. But the tiny skeletons of these diatoms survived. They formed a fine, powdery sand that now covers the region.”

He added that the phosphorus in the dust acts like a fertilizer, promoting plant growth. “In fact,” he wrote, “researchers believe that the Amazon rainforests of South America depend on annual injections of Saharan dust to stay healthy and green.”

Norma Martinez, Stephania Corpi, Jerry Clayton, Pablo de la Rosa, Alexandra Hart of the Texas Standard, Mose Buchele of KUT and Sarah Grunau of Houston Public Media, Matt Thomas, Jack Williams and Lota Nwaukwa contributed to this report.