MIAMI — Beryl, a tiny, fast-moving storm, will likely be a hurricane when it reaches Caribbean islands over the weekend hit hard by Hurricane Maria last year.
In their 11 a.m. advisory Friday, National Hurricane Center forecasters said the storm had continued to intensify Friday morning, with sustained winds reaching 80 mph. Earlier they had expected strong wind shear to weaken the storm before it neared the Lesser Antilles. But it now looks like Beryl will maintain hurricane strength as it crosses the islands late Sunday or early Monday, they said.
Because the storm is so small — hurricane force winds extend just 10 miles from the storm’s center — forecasters said it’s too soon to tell what islands may get hit. However, some islands could be placed under a hurricane watch as early as Friday night, with tropical storm force winds arriving by Sunday evening.
At 11 a.m., Beryl was located about 1,045 miles east, southeast of the Lesser Antilles, moving west at 15 mph. Over the weekend, it’s expected to speed up.
The storm should begin to weaken once it reaches the eastern Caribbean on Monday. However forecasters warned that may not occur in time to spare the Dominican Republic and Haiti, where storms often trigger dangerous mudslides and flash flooding.
Because the storm is so small, forecasters say they’ve been less certain about their projections. Small storms can morph quickly — Beryl flared up from a depression Thursday morning to a hurricane in less than 24 hours. The storms can just as quickly lose steam.
For the next day or so, forecasters say low wind shear will likely allow Beryl to continue strengthening. They have projected top winds to reach 100 mph before Haiti begins tearing up the storm. “But we shall see,” forecasters said.
Beryl is the easternmost hurricane to form from an African wave in July on record, according to University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy. Storms forming in the southern Caribbean, where waters are warmer, are far more common.