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Beryl weakens to a tropical storm after moving into Texas as a Category 1 hurricane

Hurricane Beryl slammed into Texas early Monday with heavy rains and strong winds, knocking out power to 1.5 million homes and businesses and flooding streets with rapidly rising water as emergency workers rushed to save stranded residents.

Beryl had already cut a deadly path through parts of Mexico and the Caribbean before it approached Texas. The Category 1 hurricane made landfall just before 4 a.m. and weakened to a tropical storm about five hours later. The National Hurricane Center said damaging winds and flash flooding will continue as Beryl moves further inland. At least one death has been reported.

Due to the flooding, streets in storm-stricken Houston had to be closed quickly. Flood warnings were also issued again for Houston after entire parts of the city were washed under water during severe storms in recent months.

CenterPoint Energy in Houston reported that 1.5 million homes and businesses were without power. Flood warnings were issued across the Texas coast as a powerful storm surge pushed water toward the coast and further inland while heavy rain continued.

Police in the Houston suburb of Rosenberg urged residents to stay off the roads, reporting that one of their vehicles was hit by a falling tree on the way back from a rescue mission. Video footage showed severe flooding in the city of Galveston on a barrier island. A flash flood warning was in effect in Houston for most of the morning as the city continued to be drenched in heavy rain.

In the Texas coastal town of Freeport, Patti Richardson said she was weathering the storm in her 123-year-old home.

“We’re in the middle of it. It sounds like we’re in a train station, it’s that loud and it’s been like that for about four hours. We’re just hoping that everything holds together,” Richardson said. “You can feel the house shaking. … It’s scary.”

Beryl had weakened to a tropical storm after wreaking havoc on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, but re-strengthened into a hurricane late Sunday evening. The storm’s center made landfall about 85 miles southwest of Houston with peak winds of 80 mph.

According to FlightAware tracking data, more than 1,000 flights were canceled at Houston’s two airports.

Beryl was the first storm to become a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic. It claimed at least 11 lives as it passed through the Caribbean on its way to Texas. The storm ripped off doors, windows and roofs with its devastating winds and storm surge, which was amplified by the record-breaking Atlantic heat.

Three times during its weeklong lifetime, Beryl reached winds of 35 mph (56 km/h) within 24 hours or less, which meets the weather service’s official definition of rapid intensification.

Experts say Beryl’s explosive development into an unprecedented early megastorm is indicative of the hot seas in the Atlantic and Caribbean and what awaits the Atlantic hurricane belt for the rest of the storm season.

Authorities in Texas warned people across the coast to prepare for possible flooding, heavy rain and wind. Several coastal counties called for voluntary evacuations in low-lying areas. Local authorities also banned camping on the beach and asked tourists traveling over the Fourth of July weekend to remove their RVs from coastal parks.

Tornadoes and flash floods are also possible in East Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, the hurricane center said.

The hurricane warning extended from Baffin Bay south of Corpus Christi to Sargent south of Houston.

Possible storm surges of between 1 and 2 meters above ground were forecast around Matagorda. The warnings extended to the same coastal areas where Hurricane Harvey made landfall in 2017 as a Category 4 hurricane, far stronger than Beryl.

Heavy rains are expected in Louisiana throughout Monday and “there is a risk of heavy rain and flash flooding,” National Weather Service meteorologist Donald Jones said in a Facebook Live briefing Monday morning.

Meteorologists in Louisiana are watching for persistent rainbands that could dump large amounts of rain wherever they occur, as well as “fast-moving, effervescent tornadoes,” said Donald Jones, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

“It’s just a question of where exactly that will be,” Jones said. “It’s very difficult to predict more than maybe an hour in advance.”

On the Texas coast, people have boarded up their windows and left their beach towns due to an evacuation order. Many residents and business owners have taken the usual storm precautions but are also unsure about the intensity of the storm.

In Port Lavaca, Jimmy May was attaching plywood to the windows of his utility company and said he was not worried about the potential storm surge, recalling that his company had been spared flooding during a previous hurricane that brought a 20-foot storm surge.

“When you’re in the city, you know that if you’re in the lower areas, you obviously have to get out,” he said.

The White House said Sunday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had sent emergency responders, search and rescue teams, bottled water and other supplies to the coast.

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

Before reaching Mexico, Beryl caused destruction in Jamaica, Barbados, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Three people were killed in Grenada, three in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, three in Venezuela, and two in Jamaica.