Hurricane Beryl expected to rapidly intensify as it roars toward Caribbean

Hurricane Beryl quickly developed from a tropical depression into the season's first hurricane, the National Hurricane Center said.

Beryl − the first hurricane of the 2024 season − was gaining strength and was expected to rapidly intensify before striking the Windward Islands with powerful winds and flooding storm surge, forecasters said Sunday.

The Category 1 storm was about 464 miles east-southeast of Barbados with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph early Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center's.

Beryl is forecast to become a major hurricane by Sunday evening and a high end Category 3 storm, packing sustained winds of 125 mph, with higher gusts. The center of the storm was expected to , move across the Windward Islands early Monday and across the southeastern Caribbean Sea on Monday night and Tuesday, the hurricane center said.

Wind speeds on the islands could be up to 30% stronger on the tops and windward sides of hills and mountains, possibly even higher, the center said.

Hurricane warnings, meaning hurricane conditions are expected in the area, are in effect for Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadine Islands and Grenada. A tropical storm warning is in effect for Martinique and Tobago, and a tropical storm watch is in effect for Dominica and Tobago.

Beryl may bring 1 to 4 inches of rain to southeastern Puerto Rico on Monday night and into Tuesday. 

Fueled by warm water:Hurricane Beryl, super-charged by warm seas, stuns experts

Hurricane Beryl is the first hurricane of what is expected to be an extraordinary 2024 season. Tropical Storm Alberto, the first named storm of the season, left at least four people dead in Mexico after it made landfall on June 20.

Hurricane Beryl developed quickly after it was declared a tropical depression and then a tropical storm on Friday.

Hurricane Beryl's winds are forecast to reach 125 or more as it arrives along the Windward Islands Monday. The National Hurricane Center's forecast cone graphic shows only the likely path of the center of the storm, not the full reach of potential impacts.

Track Beryl's path:Tropical storm Beryl expected to become first Atlantic hurricane of 2024 season

What is rapid intensification?

Rapid intensification is a process in which a storm undergoes accelerated growth: The phenomenon is typically defined to be a tropical cyclone (whether a tropical storm or hurricane) intensifying by at least 35 mph in a 24-hour period.

"Rapid intensification occurs when a tropical storm or hurricane encounters an extremely conducive environment," Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach said. "Typically, this environment consists of very warm water, low vertical wind shear and high levels of midlevel moisture."

Life-threatening storm surge, flooding likely

Swells from Hurricane Beryl should begin reaching the Windward and southern Leeward Islands by late Sunday, and are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip currents. The storm surge as the hurricane arrives on Monday may reach 5 to 7 feet above normal tide levels and bring "large, destructive waves" to the coast, the hurricane center said.

Rainfall could cause flooding, and is expected to dump 3 to 6 inches in Barbados and the Windward Islands Sunday night into Monday.

The hurricane center urged anyone living in the central and western Caribbean to monitor the storm's progression given the uncertainty of the forecast.

What is the outlook for the 2024 season?

Federal forecasters have predicted a hurricane season unlike any other, with as many as 25 named storms possible.It is the most storms the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has ever predicted in a preseason outlook. "All the ingredients are in place for an active season," National Weather Service director Ken Graham said in May.

NOAA director Rick Spinrad said the Atlantic hurricane season is shaping up to be "extraordinary" − an 85% chance for an above-average year. "The forecast … is the highest NOAA has ever issued for the May outlook," he said.

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