Hurricane Beryl expected to weaken quickly as it churns across Texas

By Tyler Clifford

(Reuters) – Hurricane Beryl made landfall near the coastal town of Matagorda in Texas early on Monday, pounding coastal areas with dangerous storm surges, strong winds and heavy rain as it moved inland, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Beryl, the earliest Category 5 hurricane on record, swept through Jamaica, Grenada, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines last week, killing at least 11 people and toppling buildings and power lines.

The approaching storm led to major oil port closures and forced hundreds of flight cancellations, and following warnings in Texas that it could be a deadly storm for communities in its path, residents rushed to board up windows and stock up on fuel and other essential supplies.

The storm had strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane as it crossed the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall, but it is now expected to weaken rapidly.

“Beryl is expected to weaken to a tropical storm later today and to a tropical depression on Tuesday,” the NHC said. “Steady to rapid weakening is expected as the center moves inland.”

Currently located about 70 miles (115 km) south south-west of Houston, Beryl was moving at 12 mph (19 kph) and was expected to barrel over eastern parts of the state through the course of the day before moving into the Lower Mississippi Valley into the Ohio Valley on Tuesday and Wednesday, the NHC said.

Acting Governor Dan Patrick on Sunday declared 120 counties to be disaster areas ahead of the storm and warned Beryl would be a deadly storm for people directly in its path.

Schools said they would be closed as the storm approached. Airlines canceled hundreds of flights, and officials ordered a smattering of evacuations in beach towns.

Resident Gary Short said he was most concerned about possible flooding.

“I’m more worried about the rain than anything,” he said as he filled up cans with gasoline at a service station on Sunday. “Other than that, not too concerned. Just getting ready.”

Closures of major oil-shipping ports around Corpus Christi, Galveston and Houston ahead of the storm could disrupt crude oil exports, shipments of crude to refineries, and motor fuel from the plants.

Some oil producers, including Shell and Chevron, had evacuated personnel from their Gulf of Mexico offshore production platforms ahead of the storm.

(Reporting by Tyler Clifford, Brad Heath and Swati Verma; Additional reporting by Ashitha Shivaprasad; Editing by Helen Popper and Angus MacSwan)

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