It may be tiny, but Beryl is scrappy.
The Category 1 hurricane, the first of the 2018 Atlantic season, strengthened from a tropical depression to a hurricane within 24 hours, surprising specialists who dubbed it “Brazen Beryl.”
By midday Friday, Beryl was churning about 1,000 miles east of the Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean; it’s expected to reach land by late Sunday or early Monday. Forecasters say the storm is likely to maintain its hurricane status as it approaches and crosses the islands.
“It is possible that we could have hurricane watches up for some of those islands by tonight,” said Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center.
Beryl had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph on Friday afternoon as it churned across the water.
“The hurricane force winds only extend outwards about 10 miles from the center, and the eye itself is about 5 miles wide” Berg said. “So that’s just a very tiny system. We don’t see many hurricanes that small.”
And yet, Berg said the conditions ahead of Beryl could allow it to strengthen a bit over the next few days as it heads for the island chain extending from the Virgin Islands to Grenada.
Some of the islands are still recovering from the devastation wreaked by September’s back-to-back powerful hurricanes Irma and Maria.
But those were top-of-scale Category 5 storms. Berg cautioned that because Beryl is so small and located so far out at sea, it’s too early to say for sure which islands might be impacted and how badly.
“Regardless of its strength, we would expect it to bring heavy rainfall to some of those islands, which could be prone to flash flooding and mudslides,” Berg said.
Meantime, forecasters are also keeping an eye on a weather system off the coast of North Carolina that could turn into a tropical depression over the weekend.
Berg said forecasters aren’t expecting it to move inland, “but it could get close enough to the coast to cause some impacts like wind and heavy rain.”