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Hurricane Beryl forecast to become a Category 4 storm as it enters Caribbean

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — 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 pleas from government officials for people to take shelter.

Hurricane warnings were in effect for Barbados, St. Lucia, Grenada, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Beryl’s center is expected to pass about 70 miles (112 kilometers) south of Barbados on Monday morning, said Sabu Best, director of Barbados’ meteorological service.

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

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, said hurricane specialist and storm surge expert Michael Lowry

“Beryl is an extremely dangerous and rare hurricane for this time of year in this area,” he said in a phone interview. “Unusual is an understatement. Beryl is already a historic hurricane and it hasn’t struck yet.”

Hurricane Ivan in 2004 was the last strongest hurricane to hit the southeast Caribbean, causing catastrophic damage in Grenada as a Category 3 storm.

“So this is a serious threat, a very serious threat,” Lowry said of Beryl.

Beryl was located about 420 miles (675 kilometers) east-southeast of Barbados. It was a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph (185 kph) and was moving west at 21 mph (33 kph). It was expected 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 midweek but still remain a hurricane as it heads toward Mexico.

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