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Hurricane Beryl Leaves Destruction and Death; Jamaica Under Hurricane Warning; Coastal Flood Advisory for St. Croix

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Hurricane Beryl unleashed devastating winds and heavy rain on Carriacou, a small island in Grenada, causing widespread damage and destruction. (WXCHASING DRONE SCREENSHOT)

Hurricane Beryl has unleashed widespread destruction and claimed at least one life in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, according to Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. Union Island, part of the Grenadines, experienced significant devastation with 90 percent of homes damaged, many losing roofs or being completely destroyed. Carriacou in Grenada also suffered extensive damage, with drone footage revealing numerous homes with destroyed roofs. Although Barbados was impacted, it did not receive a direct hit from the storm.

Current Warnings

Hurricane Warning:

  • Jamaica

Tropical Storm Warning:

  • South coast of the Dominican Republic from Punta Palenque to the Haitian border
  • South coast of Haiti from the Dominican Republic border to Anse d’Hainault

A Hurricane Warning signifies that hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours, while a Tropical Storm Warning indicates tropical storm conditions are expected within the same timeframe.

Monitoring Beryl

Residents in the Cayman Islands and the northwestern Caribbean should closely monitor Beryl, as additional watches or warnings may be issued. Despite Beryl’s severe impact in the central Caribbean, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are expected to experience increased showers and gusty winds on Tuesday, with potential strong wind gusts accompanying the rain. Following Beryl, Saharan dust is forecasted to move in on Wednesday, followed by another tropical wave on Thursday with a 30 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone.

Coastal Conditions

The main impact on the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico will be deteriorating marine and coastal conditions. A Coastal Flood Advisory is in effect from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. AST on Tuesday for St. Croix, Vieques, and the southern coast of Puerto Rico due to waves up to 17 feet. Seas are expected to reach 8 to 15 feet as the system passes to the south on Tuesday.

Hurricane Beryl’s Current Status

As of 2:00 a.m. AST, Hurricane Beryl was located near latitude 14.2 North, longitude 65.8 West, moving west-northwest at 22 mph. The NOAA Hurricane Hunters reported maximum sustained winds of 165 mph, classifying Beryl as a Category 5 hurricane. Although fluctuations in strength are likely, Beryl is expected to remain a major hurricane as it approaches Jamaica on Wednesday, with weakening expected thereafter.

Expected Impact on Jamaica and Hispaniola

Wind:
Hurricane conditions are anticipated in Jamaica by Wednesday, with tropical storm conditions expected along the south coast of Hispaniola later today.

Storm Surge:
Storm surge could raise water levels by 3 to 5 feet above normal tide levels along Jamaica’s coast and by 1 to 3 feet along Hispaniola’s southern coast.

Rainfall:
Beryl is expected to produce 4 to 8 inches of rain, with localized maxima of 12 inches in Jamaica on Wednesday, potentially causing flash flooding. Rainfall from Beryl’s outer bands may impact Hispaniola with 2 to 6 inches of rain possible.

Surf:
Large swells generated by Beryl will continue across the Windward and southern Leeward Islands over the next few days, reaching the southern coasts of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola later today. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

Additional Weather Systems

An area of low pressure about 1,000 miles east-southeast of the Windward Islands is generating disorganized showers and thunderstorms. While environmental conditions are only marginally conducive for development, heavy rainfall is possible midweek in the Lesser Antilles.

  • Formation chance through 48 hours: Low (20 percent)
  • Formation chance through 7 days: Low (30 percent)
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Weather

Historical Heatwaves and Their Impact on Local Residents

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USVI have experienced a notable increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves, exacerbated by the ongoing effects of climate change. This trend poses significant challenges to the residents, infrastructure, and ecosystems of the islands.

Climate Trends in the USVI

Over recent decades, the USVI has observed rising temperatures and prolonged heatwaves. According to climate data, average temperatures in the Caribbean region have been steadily increasing, with significant implications for both the natural environment and human health. The USVI is particularly vulnerable due to its geographical location, limited resources, and high dependency on marine and coastal ecosystems.

Impacts on Health and Well-being

Heatwaves have direct and severe effects on human health, increasing the risk of heat-related illnesses such as heatstroke, dehydration, and cardiovascular complications. Vulnerable populations, including the elderly, children, and those with pre-existing health conditions, are at greater risk. During extreme heat events, healthcare facilities may become overwhelmed, and energy demands surge as residents seek relief through air conditioning, straining the power infrastructure.

Local health initiatives, supported by grants from the U.S. Department of the Interior, aim to increase community health literacy regarding the impacts of climate change and heatwaves. These efforts are crucial for improving public health responses and mitigating the adverse effects on vulnerable populations.

Environmental and Economic Impacts

The USVI’s economy heavily relies on tourism, which can be significantly disrupted by extreme weather events. Heatwaves, coupled with rising sea levels and coastal erosion, threaten the islands’ beaches, coral reefs, and other natural attractions. This not only impacts tourism revenues but also affects local livelihoods dependent on fishing and marine resources.

The coastal infrastructure, including power plants, water and sewage systems, and transportation hubs, is also at risk. For instance, the power plants on St. Thomas and St. Croix, as well as critical cargo ports and cruise terminals, face increased vulnerability to extreme heat and sea level rise. This exposure necessitates urgent adaptation measures to safeguard these essential services.

Adaptation and Resilience Building

In response to these challenges, the USVI government has implemented several climate change adaptation programs. These initiatives focus on building resilience through coordinated planning and collaboration across public, private, and non-profit sectors. The Climate Change Council, established by Executive Order in 2015, spearheads these efforts, ensuring that climate adaptation strategies are integrated into policy and planning frameworks.

Key projects include vulnerability and risk assessments, workshops on the economic impacts of climate change, and the development of decision-support tools for ecosystem-based adaptation. These initiatives aim to enhance the resilience of both natural and human systems to the increasing threats posed by climate change.

Conclusion

As climate change continues to drive more frequent and severe heatwaves in the USVI, the impacts on local residents, infrastructure, and the economy become more pronounced. Proactive adaptation strategies and community engagement are essential to mitigate these effects and build a resilient future for the islands. By leveraging local and federal resources, the USVI can develop robust responses to protect its population and sustain its economic vitality in the face of a changing climate.

For further details on the ongoing climate change adaptation efforts in the USVI, visit Coastal Resilience and the USVI Climate Change Program.

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Weather Forecast: What to Expect This Week in USVI

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The U.S. Virgin Islands are set to experience a mix of weather conditions this week, making it essential to stay updated for both residents and visitors. Here’s a detailed look at what you can expect from Monday, July 15, 2024, onward.

Monday, July 15

The week begins with partly cloudy skies and temperatures ranging from 79°F to 87°F. Passing showers are expected, contributing to a 40% chance of precipitation. Winds will be light at 10 mph, creating a comfortable start to the week with a “feels-like” temperature of 94°F due to the humidity.

Tuesday, July 16

On Tuesday, expect similar conditions with passing showers and morning clouds. Temperatures will be slightly higher, between 80°F and 87°F, with a humidity level pushing the “feels-like” temperature to 98°F. Winds will pick up, blowing at 16 mph from the east​.

Midweek: Wednesday to Thursday

Wednesday and Thursday will see an increase in temperature, with highs reaching 89°F and lows around 81°F. Both days will feature passing showers and partly cloudy skies. Winds will be stronger at around 22 mph, and the humidity will remain high, making it feel closer to 99°F​​.

Friday, July 19

Friday’s forecast predicts scattered clouds and passing showers, with temperatures stable between 81°F and 89°F. The chance of precipitation drops to 44%, with winds maintaining their speed at 22 mph​​.

Weekend Outlook: Saturday and Sunday

The weekend will bring more significant changes, especially on Saturday with thundershowers expected throughout the day. Temperatures will hover around 87°F to 81°F, and the humidity will spike, leading to a 77% chance of precipitation and potential thundershowers. Sunday will see a slight improvement, with passing showers and morning clouds. Temperatures will range from 80°F to 88°F​​.

General Weather Patterns and Tips

Ocean Temperatures and Activities July is an excellent month for water activities in the USVI, with average sea temperatures around 83.7°F. This range is perfect for swimming, diving, and other water sports, offering comfortable conditions for prolonged periods​​.

Daylight and Sun Protection With an average of 13 hours and 7 minutes of daylight, you will have plenty of time to enjoy outdoor activities. Sunrise is around 5:51 AM and sunset at 6:59 PM. Remember, the UV index will be very high, so it’s crucial to wear sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses to protect yourself from harmful sun exposure​.

Marine Forecast The waters around the USVI will experience moderate to fresh easterly winds throughout the week. Seas will be up to 7 feet, especially in offshore areas, and a tropical wave will bring increased shower and thunderstorm activity by midweek. Boaters should exercise caution and stay updated with the latest marine forecasts​.

By staying informed and prepared, you can make the most of your time in the beautiful U.S. Virgin Islands, regardless of the weather. Enjoy your week!

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Tropical Storms Hit the Virgin Islands: How to Prepare

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As tropical storms and hurricanes frequently threaten the U.S. Virgin Islands, it is crucial to be well-prepared to ensure the safety and well-being of residents. The Atlantic hurricane season spans from June 1 to November 30, peaking between mid-August and late October. Effective preparation can mitigate the risks associated with these powerful storms.

1. Understand the Risks

The Virgin Islands face several hazards from tropical storms, including high winds, heavy rainfall, storm surges, and flooding. Understanding these risks is the first step in preparing adequately. The Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) provides resources to help residents stay informed about potential threats.

2. Develop an Emergency Plan

Creating a comprehensive emergency plan is essential. Discuss with your family the steps to take if a storm approaches. Include plans for elderly and disabled family members, and ensure all household members know what to do. Make sure to:

  • Identify evacuation routes and shelters.
  • Plan for communication if family members are separated.
  • Register for emergency alerts to receive timely updates.

3. Assemble a Disaster Supply Kit

A well-stocked disaster supply kit can be a lifesaver during and after a storm. Your kit should include:

  • Non-perishable food and water for at least three days.
  • Medications, first aid supplies, and personal hygiene items.
  • Flashlights, batteries, and a portable radio.
  • Important documents, such as insurance policies, medical records, and identification, stored in waterproof containers.
  • Supplies for pets, if applicable.

Keep your kit updated and make sure all family members know its location​ (VI Department of Health)​​ (VITEMA)​​ (Home)​.

4. Prepare Your Home

Strengthening your home against storm damage is vital. Take the following steps to safeguard your property:

  • Trim or remove trees and branches that could fall on your home.
  • Secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any debris to prevent water damage.
  • Install storm shutters or board up windows to protect against flying debris.
  • Secure and reinforce the roof, doors, and garage doors.
  • Consider purchasing a portable generator for power outages, ensuring it is used safely and kept outside away from windows and doors​ (VI Department of Health)​​ (Home)​.

5. Stay Informed and Connected

Staying informed about weather updates and maintaining communication with family and emergency services is critical. Sign up for local alerts and warnings through VITEMA and other emergency management agencies. Follow official sources on social media for real-time updates.

6. Know the Difference: Watches vs. Warnings

Understanding the terminology used by weather services can help you respond appropriately:

  • Watch: Conditions are favorable for a storm. Begin making preparations.
  • Warning: A storm is imminent or occurring. Take immediate action to protect yourself and your property​ (VITEMA)​.

7. Community and Neighbor Support

In the aftermath of a storm, community support can be invaluable. Help neighbors secure their homes and share resources and information. Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) can provide training on basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, and medical operations​ (Home)​.

Conclusion

Preparation is the key to minimizing the impact of tropical storms and hurricanes on the Virgin Islands. By understanding the risks, developing a comprehensive plan, assembling a disaster supply kit, preparing your home, staying informed, and supporting your community, you can enhance your resilience against these natural disasters.

For more detailed information and resources, visit VITEMA’s website and FEMA’s hurricane preparedness page.

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