After devastating the Caribbean, Hurricane Beryl has been downgraded, but can continue to bring ruin

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Hurricane Beryl, the first major storm of the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season, now significantly downgraded to a Category 2 system, is currently headed for Central America, having practically “flattened” several of the Windward Islands as a Cat 4 earlier this week. It then tore through Jamaica on July 3, after which it also affected the Cayman Islands.

The death toll from Beryl is estimated to be at least seven people so far, surprising given the level of ruin to infrastructure, buildings, and the natural environment in places like Carriacou, Union Island, Mayreau, and Petit Martinique in the Grenadines. The difference in the level of vegetation on Carriacou alone, pre- and post-Beryl, is startling.

Despite being downgraded, forecasters maintain that Beryl is still to be considered a hazardous storm that can do serious damage; they are particularly concerned about the effects of “damaging waves” from its storm surge, which could raise water levels by as much as three to five feet above ground level.

The Yucatán Peninsula is under a hurricane warning; once Beryl sweeps past it and arrives in the Gulf of Mexico, there is a chance of “slow re-intensification.” Parts of Belize are also on a tropical storm watch.

As a result of heavy rain and gusty winds, Jamaicans experienced a widespread loss of electricity supply, and there was heavy flooding in some areas, with many roads being rendered impassable and people being stranded. A comprehensive view of the extent of the damage is still to be determined, though the island has reported at least two storm-related deaths.

Like elsewhere in the archipelago, many people lost their roofs, though this woman in Jamaica was dangerously determined to hold on to hers:

One resident of Mandeville, located in hilly, south-central Jamaica, was astounded at how effortlessly trees were felled and overhead lines pulled down. Though shaken, he said they would rebuild:

The community of Treasure Beach also suffered losses, but also declared its resilience and intent to rebuild:

The Jamaica Observer newspaper reported that the devastation was far-reaching:

Yet, people rushed to help and relieve the suffering of others in whatever ways they could:

Even as Jamaica closed its airports and Prime Minister Andrew Holness advised that hundreds of people were taking refuge in shelters across the island, the nation's leader was drawing criticism on X (formerly Twitter) for a comment he made on the climate crisis:

One commenter on the thread replied, “Tunnel vision. He’s not realizing that industrial pollution is not the sole cause for climate change. It’s the destruction [of] natural habitats etc.” Holness’ administration has been criticised for allowing both construction and industrial projects that compromise the environment.

Meanwhile, Trinidadian writer Ingrid Persaud lamented:

In the Caymans — much closer in size to the Windwards than Jamaica, and still cognisant of the havoc Hurricane Ivan wreaked on the islands two decades ago — residents stocked up on supplies and tried to protect themselves as best they could. Beryl, thankfully, never made landfall there.

However, the storm has set numerous records as the strongest, earliest hurricane of the annual season, which has been largely attributed to conditions caused by climate change.

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