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Beryl in the Gulf raises concerns over rip currents in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi

This GOES-16 GeoColor satellite image taken at 4:16 p.m. EDT on Friday, July 5, 2024, and provided by NOAA, shows Hurricane Beryl over Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Texas officials urged coastal residents to prepare as the storm moves toward the Gulf of Mexico. (NOAA via AP)
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NOAA
This GOES-16 GeoColor satellite image taken at 4:16 p.m. EDT on Friday, July 5, 2024, and provided by NOAA, shows Hurricane Beryl over Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Texas officials urged coastal residents to prepare as the storm moves toward the Gulf of Mexico. (NOAA via AP)

Beryl is a disorganized system in the Gulf of Mexico after hitting Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and slamming parts of the Caribbean. As the storm moves toward Texas, weather forecasters are raising the concern of heavier rip currents along the Alabama and Florida Gulf coasts. Red flag warnings are flying all along the Gulf coast. USA Today already lists Panama City Beach as one of the most dangerous spots in the nation after seven people.

After battering Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Beryl moved back into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico where it was expected to regain hurricane strength Saturday before taking aim at the Texas coast, where officials urged residents to brace for a potential hit. The earliest storm to develop into a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic, Beryl caused at least 11 deaths as it passed through the Caribbean islands earlier in the week. It then battered Mexico as a Category 2 hurricane, toppling trees but causing no injuries or deaths before weakening to a tropical storm as it moved across the peninsula.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center predicted late Friday that Beryl would intensify on Saturday before making landfall, prompting expanded hurricane and storm surge watches.

"There is an increasing risk of damaging hurricane-force winds and life-threatening storm surge in portions of northeastern Mexico and the lower and middle Texas coast late Sunday and Monday," the center warned.

Texas officials warned the state's entire coastline to brace for possible flooding, heavy rain and wind as they wait for a more defined path of the storm. On Friday, the hurricane center issued hurricane and storm surge watches for the Texas coast from the mouth of the Rio Grande north to San Luis Pass, less than 80 miles south of Houston.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the acting governor while Gov. Greg Abbott is traveling in Taiwan, issued a pre-emptive disaster declaration for 40 counties.

"Everyone along the (Texas) coast should be paying attention this storm," Patrick said. "We hope and we pray for nothing more than a rain event."

Some Texas coastal cities called for voluntary evacuations in low-lying areas prone to flooding, banned beach camping and urged tourists traveling on the July 4 holiday weekend to move recreational vehicles from coastal parks. In Corpus Christi, city officials announced it had distributed 10,000 sandbags in less than two hours Friday, exhausting its supply.

Beryl already spread destruction in Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Barbados this week. Three people have been reported dead in Grenada, three in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, three in Venezuela and two in Jamaica, officials said. Mexican authorities had moved some tourists and residents out of low-lying areas around the Yucatan Peninsula before landfall, but tens of thousands remained to tough out the strong winds and storm surge. Much of the area around Tulum is just a few yards above sea level.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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