20240630 beryl
Hurricane Beryl strengthened into an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm Sunday as it threatened the southeast Caribbean with potentially life-threatening winds and storm surge. Image Credit: AFP

Hurricane Beryl has become an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm in the Atlantic Ocean and is expected to bring life-threatening winds and flash flooding to the Caribbean's Windward Islands as it rapidly strengthens into Monday, the U.S.

National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

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The first hurricane of the 2024 season was located about 310 miles (500 km) east-southeast of Barbados on Sunday midday, with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 kph), the NHC said in an advisory.

The center of the hurricane is expected to travel across the southeastern and central Caribbean sea late Monday through Wednesday, the NHC said, and is expected to remain a Category 4 hurricane as it moves through the Windward Islands.

It is rare for a major hurricane to appear this early in the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. On Sunday, Beryl became the earliest Category 4 hurricane on record, beating Hurricane Dennis, which became a Category 4 on July 8, 2005, according to NHC data.

Hurricane warnings have been issued in Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadine Islands, Grenada and Tobago.

"A life-threatening storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 6 to 9 feet above normal tide levels," the NHC warned in its advisory.

The agency said the islands should brace for up to 6 inches (15 cm) of rain.

Large, dangerous swells are also expected to batter the southern coasts of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola.

Last month, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted "above-normal hurricane activity" in the Atlantic in 2024, in part due to near-record warm ocean temperatures.