Hurricane Beryl, the first named hurricane of the 2018 season, slowly made its way toward the Caribbean islands as a low Category 1 storm on Saturday morning, according to CNN. By Saturday afternoon, it was downgraded to a tropical storm. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello declared a state of emergency Friday night, but when will Tropical Storm Beryl hit Puerto Rico, or will it make a direct hit at all? Here’s just how bad the threat is.
AccuWeather reported that Tropical Storm Beryl is passing through an area with conditions that won’t add to its strength; rather, the winds will gently push the tropical storm “on a northwest path” as it weakens over the weekend and into Monday. At 8 a.m. Eastern Time on Saturday, The Orlando Sentinel reported that the storm was 780 miles east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles, and that it was moving west-northwest at 14 mph.
“Beryl is forecast to be near hurricane strength when it approaches the Lesser Antilles Sunday night or Monday, and the chance of some islands receiving direct impacts from wind and rainfall continue to increase,” forecasters for the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said, according to The Sentinel.
The storm’s center might pass just south of Puerto Rico on Monday, according to AccuWeather, thus Gov. Rossello’s state of emergency. The NHC said, according to The Sentinel:
Beryl is expected to remain in a light vertical wind shear environment today, but an increase in westerly shear is expected on Sunday, and the shear is forecast to become quite strong as Beryl moves over the eastern Caribbean early next week. As a result, the new NHC intensity forecast calls for little change in strength during the next 24-36 [hours], but predicts steady weakening after that time.
Still, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller said the storm won’t be nearly as bad as Hurricane Maria, which ravaged Dominica and Puerto Rico in September 2017. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority reported in early July, some nine months after the hurricane, that it had finally restored power to 99.9 percent of its customers, according to Vox. There are 1,942 people in remote mountainous regions who still don’t have power.
"In most cases Beryl's impact on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands will be like a robust tropical wave and not a hurricane," Miller said, according to AccuWeather. But a “robust tropical wave” could still pose a threat to residents who live near the storm’s path, according to Dr. Joel Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather. "While Beryl is expected to weaken by the time it passes near or south of Puerto Rico, and probably will not be a hurricane but a tropical storm, it will still carry significant moisture, resulting in general rainfall totals of 1 to 3 inches,” Myers said.
And the mountainous regions — the regions still without power — could see as much as six inches of rain, which could put the region and its residents at risk due to mudslides and localized flash flooding, AccuWeather reported. On Friday, Rossello urged residents whose homes have blue tarps have roofs to stay with family members or find secure shelter, according to CNN. Residents have already been preparing, with photos on Twitter showing people flocking to Costco to stock up on non-perishable goods:
Though tropical storms’ winds are less strong, falling between 39 and 73 mph, the NHC has warned that it’s difficult to predict just how much damage it could cause. “Confidence in the official intensity forecast is also lower than normal,” the Center warned, according to TIME. “Rapid changes in intensity, both up and down, that are difficult to predict are possible during the next couple days.”
The takeaway: Puerto Rico is bracing for what will hopefully be just bad rain, with localized flooding that residents are preparing for thanks to storm warnings and Rossello’s state of emergency. But it’s still unclear just how much damage there could be.