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Hurricane Beryl hammers Texas coast with flooding, winds

(Reuters)
8 July 2024 21:29

HOUSTON (AFP)

Hurricane Beryl made landfall Monday in the southern US state of Texas, killing at least two people and causing millions to lose power amid dangerous winds and flooding, as some coastal areas remained under evacuation orders.

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Beryl hit the town of Matagorda as a Category 1 hurricane and was downgraded to a tropical storm in the hours following impact.


Farther inland, rain and wind lashed Houston, home to 2.3 million people, as the NHC warned in its latest bulletin of "life-threatening storm surge, damaging wind gusts and flooding rainfall" across southeastern Texas.

"We have to take Beryl very, very seriously. Our worst enemy is complacency," Houston Mayor John Whitmire said ahead of the hurricane's arrival.

Some 2.6 million households were without electricity as of midday Monday, according to the poweroutage.us tracker.

Falling trees killed two people in the Houston area: a 53-year-old man who became trapped under debris when a tree fell on a house and a 74-year-old woman who was separately struck by a tree falling on a residence, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez wrote on X.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport was facing more than 500 flight cancellations, according to tracking service FlightAware, while the National Weather Service warned of the potential for tornadoes.

The NHC said rainfall of up to 15 inches (38 centimetres) was expected in parts of Texas, warning that it could cause flash flooding in some areas.

Several areas of the Texas coast had already been placed under hurricane and storm warnings over the weekend.

Authorities in Nueces County, home to Corpus Christi, asked tourists to leave the city while neighbouring Refugio County -- yet to fully recover from Hurricane Harvey in 2017 -- issued a mandatory evacuation order.

The city of Galveston, southeast of Houston, had issued a voluntary evacuation order for some areas. Videos on social media showed lines of cars heading out of town.

'A deadly storm'

Acting Governor Dan Patrick called on Texans to stay alert, listen to local officials and leave the danger zone if possible.

"It will be a deadly storm for people directly in that path," Patrick told a state emergency management news conference.

Beryl has now left at least a dozen dead after tearing through the Caribbean and Venezuela, with winds at times reaching the maximum Category 5 strength.

It hit Mexico as a Category 2 hurricane on Friday, flattening trees and lampposts and ripping off roof tiles, although there were no reported deaths or injuries there.

Before that, it hit the Cayman Islands and Jamaica, slamming Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela.

Beryl is the first hurricane since NHC records began to reach the Category 4 level in June and the earliest to hit the highest Category 5 in July.

According to expert Michael Lowry, it is also the earliest hurricane to make landfall in Texas in a decade.

It is extremely rare for such a powerful storm to form this early in the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from early June to late November.

Scientists say climate change likely plays a role in the rapid intensification of storms such as Beryl because there is more energy in a warmer ocean for them to feed on.

North Atlantic waters are between two and five degrees Fahrenheit (one to three degrees Celsius) warmer than normal, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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