By the end of this week, the world will know the full extent of the damage caused by Hurricane Beryl, one of the earliest storms to have ever formed in the region, as it makes it way from Trinidad and Tobago at the southeast end of the Caribbean island chain to as far north as Jamaica and possibly Belize in the northwest.

The formation of the category four storm in the past week has triggered panic across the region, as most nations are not used to dealing with a fully developed storm this early in a season that normally begins on June 1 and concludes at the end of November each year. Rewriting many records, Beryl, officials say, has moved from a depression to a full-fledged hurricane in less than 50 hours, a development that experts say is highly unusual but points to the realities of climate change that regional governments had been complaining about so persistently around the globe.

Forecasters say that the impact will be felt from Tobago, Trinidad’s sister isle to the north, right through the Eastern Caribbean island chain up to Jamaica by the end of the week. Prime Minister Andrew Holness, like leaders of other nations in Beryl’s path, took to national airwaves at the weekend to warn Jamaicans to be prepared for the very worst as “all the models have suggested that if it is not a direct impact, it will be in the vicinity of Jamaica. We expect that this will bring adverse weather conditions, and we expect that by Wednesday morning we will be experiencing such conditions.”

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves in St. Vincent also warned locals to take Beryl seriously, noting that “this is a major hurricane. This is not a joke. We see what major hurricanes have done nearby to Grenada with Hurricane Ivan, and what has happened to Dominica in 2017 with Hurricane Maria, though Category Five in those cases. But the point I want to make, I want to repeat, this hurricane is intensifying,” he said.

But Grenada, just north of Trinidad and down dip from St. Vincent, is the one preparing for a battering, as models have shown that it might well pass over the island of just over 100,000 people as Ivan did back in September 2004, when the storm left much of the country like a South American gold mining camp, with tarpaulins of various colors dotting the island and replacing blown off roofs. Mainland Grenada has, however, been spared the worst of the storm this time as the eye has picked out the two smaller islands, Petite Martinique and Carriacou. PM Dickon Mitchell urged citizens to remain indoors at least until midnight when attempts to assess the situation will be made.

Ironically, Grenada should have been hosting this week’s regional leaders summit, but the 15-nation bloc announced a postponement as priorities shifted to Beryl. The formation of the storm with 150 miles per hour winds during Monday, will give the region further evidence in arguing that the climate is changing and that the countries which pollute the least are bearing the brunt of storms, as Bloc Secretary General Carla Barnett and others have pointed out.“Climate change has a very tangible human, economic, and financial impact on Caricom. We recall the record-breaking 2017 hurricane season when Hurricanes Irma and Maria, within a period of two weeks, charted paths of destruction across the region. Damage estimated at more than 200% of GDP occurred in one of our member states—Dominica. In Barbuda, the housing stock was almost totally destroyed. Critical infrastructure, including water and electricity, homes, health facilities and schools, were decimated in the wake of these storms,” she told a recent international forum in Antigua.

“Even as we meet at this conference, the region is entering an Atlantic hurricane season that is expected to be extremely active with a forecast of 11 hurricanes, five of them slated to be major storms of Category 3 intensity or higher. The Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CARICOF), coordinated out of the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), predicted near record heat for the Caribbean region from April to September 2024. Several of our member states have already been experiencing periods of prolonged drought, and this has been compounded by forest and bush fires across our region,” she said.

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