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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Hurricane Beryl is forecast to strengthen into a powerful Category 4 storm as it approaches the southeast Caribbean, which began shutting down Sunday amid urgent pleads from government officials for people to take shelter.

Hurricane warnings were in effect for Barbados, St. Lucia, Grenada, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“This is a very serious situation developing for the Windward Islands,” warned the National Hurricane Center, which said that Beryl was “forecast to bring life-threatening winds and storm surge … as an extremely dangerous hurricane.”

Beryl strengthened into a Category 3 hurricane on Sunday morning, becoming the first major hurricane east of the Lesser Antilles on record for June, according to Philip Klotzbach, Colorado State University hurricane researcher.

Beryl is now only the third Category 3 hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic in June, following Audrey in 1957 and Alma in 1966, according to hurricane expert Michael Lowry.

Beryl was located about 465 miles east-southeast of Barbados. It was a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph and was moving west at 21 mph .

Two hurricane hunters were en route to the storm to gather more details about its intensity, according to the National Hurricane Center.

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Beryl is expect to pass just south of Barbados early Monday and then head into the Caribbean Sea as a major hurricane on a path toward Jamaica. It is expected to weaken by mid-week but still remain a hurricane as it heads toward Mexico.

Forecasters warned of life-threatening storm surge of up to 9 feet (3 meters) in areas where Beryl will make landfall, with up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rain for Barbados and nearby islands.

Long lines formed at gas stations and grocery stores in Barbados and other islands as people rushed to prepare for a storm that has broken records and rapidly intensified from a tropical storm with 35 mph winds on Friday to a Category 1 hurricane on Saturday.

Warm waters were fueling Beryl, with ocean heat content in the deep Atlantic the highest on record for this time of year, according to Brian McNoldy, University of Miami tropical meteorology researcher.

Beryl marks the farthest east that a hurricane has formed in the tropical Atlantic in June, breaking a record set in 1933, according to Philip Klotzbach, Colorado State University hurricane researcher. If Beryl’s winds reach 125 mph, it would be the second earliest such storm in the Atlantic on record, surpassing Audrey in 1957, he said.

In addition, if Beryl reaches a Category 3, it would only be the third storm to do so in the Caribbean prior to August; Dennis and Emily both did so in July of 2005, according to Klotzbach.

“We have to remain vigilant,” Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley said in a public address late Saturday. “We do not want to put anybody’s life at risk.”

Thousands of people were in Barbados for Saturday’s Twenty20 World Cup final, cricket’s biggest event, with Mottley noting that not all fans were able to leave Sunday despite many rushing to change their flights.

“Some of them have never gone through a storm before,” she said. “We have plans to take care of them.”

Mottley said all businesses should close by Sunday evening and warned the airport would close by nighttime.

Kemar Saffrey, president of a Barbadian group that aims to end homelessness, said in a video posted on social media Saturday night that those without homes tend to think they can ride out storms because they’ve done it before.

“I don’t want that to be the approach that they take,” he said, warning that Beryl is a dangerous storm and urging Barbadians to direct homeless people to a shelter.

Echoing his comments was Wilfred Abrahams, minister of home affairs and information.

“I need Barbadians at this point to be their brother’s keeper,” he said. “Some people are vulnerable.”

Meanwhile, St. Lucia Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre announced a national shutdown for Sunday evening and said schools and businesses would remain closed on Monday.

“Preservation and protection of life is a priority,” he said.

Caribbean leaders were preparing not only for Beryl, but for a cluster of thunderstorms trailing the hurricane that have a 70% chance of becoming a tropical depression.

“Do not let your guard down,” Mottley said.

Beryl is the second named storm in what is forecast to be an above-average hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 in the Atlantic. Earlier this month, Tropical Storm Alberto came ashore in northeastern Mexico with heavy rains that resulted in four deaths.

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.

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