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Tropical Storm Beryl Approaches US Coast

Tropical Storm Beryl Approaches US Coast

Texas is bracing for the imminent arrival of Storm Beryl — and then again as a hurricane. In the Caribbean, Beryl reached the maximum strength of a Category 5 hurricane and was downgraded to a tropical storm as it passed over Mexico. According to the NHC, Beryl had sustained winds of 60 mph (95 km/h), and is expected to become a hurricane again (at least 73 mph) over the Gulf of Mexico during Sunday.

The center of the storm is expected to make landfall on the southern Texas coast on Monday. A hurricane warning is in effect for part of the Gulf Coast, which includes the city of Corpus Christi. Evacuations have been ordered in Refugio County, home to about 7,000 people. In several other Texas counties, residents were asked to voluntarily seek safety. Acting Texas Gov. Dan Patrick has declared a state of emergency for 121 counties. Forecasters are predicting heavy rains, flooding and flash flooding. Tornadoes are also possible.

The U.S. Coast Guard also warned of possible port closures. That could temporarily halt the movement of crude oil to refineries and motor fuel from those facilities. Shipping has already been restricted. Citgo Petroleum Corp. on Saturday cut production at its 165,000-barrel-per-day Corpus Christi, Texas, refinery. Shell said it had completed the evacuation of workers from its Perdido production platform in the Gulf of Mexico ahead of the storm. Offshore production in the Gulf of Mexico accounts for about 14 percent of total U.S. crude oil production, at about 1.8 million barrels per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Any impact on supply could push up prices for U.S. and offshore crude.

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In Mexico, Beryl hit the Yucatan Peninsula on Friday as a Category 2 hurricane near the Caribbean resort of Tulum. It uprooted trees and knocked down street signs. Power was knocked out in large parts of the densely populated vacation area.

The storm had already battered several Caribbean islands, leaving a trail of destruction. At least 11 people were killed, including three in Venezuela. On some islands in the southeastern Caribbean, including the states of Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, more than 90 percent of homes were damaged or destroyed, governments said. In Jamaica, more than 250,000 households were still without power on Saturday, according to the power company JPS.

Meanwhile, sustained winds of up to 270 km/h were measured at Beryl — up from 252 km/h, reaching Category 5 status. Never before has such a powerful storm struck so early in the Atlantic hurricane season, which begins in June and lasts six months. Warmer seawater due to climate change is increasing the likelihood of powerful hurricanes.