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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Beryl strengthened into a hurricane on Saturday as it churned toward the southeast Caribbean, with forecasters warning it was expected to strengthen into a dangerous major hurricane before reaching Barbados late Sunday or early Monday.

The storm’s current track is not threatening Florida.

A major hurricane is considered a Category 3 or higher, with winds of at least 111 mph (. At the moment, Beryl is a Category 1 hurricane.

A hurricane warning was issued for Barbados, and a hurricane watch was in effect for St. Lucia, Grenada, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, while a tropical storm watch was issued for Martinique, Dominica and Tobago.Hurricane watches were in effect for Barbados, St. Lucia, Grenada, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, while a tropical storm watch was issued for Martinique, Dominica and Tobago.

Source: National Hurricane Center

“It’s astonishing to see a forecast for a major (Category 3+) hurricane in June anywhere in the Atlantic, let alone this far east in the deep tropics. #Beryl organizing in a hurry over the warmest waters ever recorded for late June,” Florida-based hurricane expert Michael Lowry posted on X.

Beryl’s center is forecast to pass about 26 miles south of Barbados, said Sabu Best, director of the island’s meteorological service’s director.

On Saturday, Beryl was located about 720 miles ( east-southeast of Barbados, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph). It was moving west at 22 mph (35 kph).

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“Rapid strengthening is now forecast,” the National Hurricane Center said.

Warm waters are fueling Beryl, with ocean heat content in the deep Atlantic the highest on record for this time of year, according to Brian McNoldy, a University of Miami tropical meteorology researcher at the Rosenstiel School on Virginia Key.

Beryl is the strongest June tropical storm on record that far east in the tropical Atlantic, noted Philip Klotzbach, Colorado State University hurricane researcher.

“We need to be ready,” Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley said in a public address late Friday. “You and I know when these things happen, it is better to plan for the worst and pray for the best.”

She noted that thousands of people are in Barbados for the Twenty20 World Cup cricket final, with India and South Africa playing in the capital, Bridgetown, on Saturday. It is considered cricket’s biggest event.

Some fans, like Shashank Musku, a 33-year-old physician who lives in Pittsburgh, were rushing to change their flights to leave before the storm.

Musku has never experienced a hurricane: “I don’t plan on being in one, either.”

He and his wife, who are rooting for India, found out about Beryl thanks to a taxi driver who mentioned the storm.

Meanwhile, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said in a public address Saturday that shelters will open Sunday evening as he urged people to prepare. He ordered officials to refuel government vehicles, and asked grocery stores and gas stations to stay open later before the storm.

“There will be such a rush …if you keep limited hours,” he said as he apologized ahead of time for government interruptions on radio stations with storm updates. “Cricket lovers have to bear with us that we’ll have to give information … this is life and death.”

Beryl is the second named storm in what is predicted to be a busy hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 in the Atlantic. Earlier this month, Tropical Storm Alberto came ashore in northeast Mexico with heavy rains that resulted in four deaths.

Lowry noted that only five named storms on record have formed in the tropical Atlantic east of the Caribbean. Of those, only one hurricane of record has formed east of the Caribbean in June.

Mark Spence, manager of a hostel in Barbados, said in a phone interview that he was calm about the approaching storm.

“It’s the season. You can get a storm any time,” he said. “I’m always prepared. I always have enough food in my house.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts the 2024 hurricane season is likely to be well above average, with between 17 and 25 named storms. The forecast calls for as many as 13 hurricanes and four major hurricanes.

An average Atlantic hurricane season produces 14 named storms, seven of them hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Beryl is expected to drop up to six inches (15 centimeters) of rain in Barbados and nearby islands, and a high surf warning of waves up to 13 feet (4 meters) was in effect. A storm surge of up to seven feet (2 meters) is also forecast.

The storm is approaching the southeast Caribbean just days after the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago reported major flooding in the capital, Port-of-Spain, as a result of an unrelated weather event.

Meanwhile, a no-name storm earlier this June dumped more than 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain on parts of South Florida, stranding numerous motorists on flooded streets and pushing water into some homes in low-lying areas.

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