Hurricane Beryl: Travel advice as storm hits Texas – with ‘life-threatening’ conditions forecast

Danger zone: Predictions of strongest winds (purple) as Hurricane Beryl moves across the Gulf of Mexico (National Hurricane Center)
Danger zone: Predictions of strongest winds (purple) as Hurricane Beryl moves across the Gulf of Mexico (National Hurricane Center)

“We have never seen such a strong hurricane this early in the season” – so says Colin McCarthy, an extreme weather scientist, about Hurricane Beryl.

The first major storm of the season brought 140mph winds and continuous rain, causing severe damage in many Caribbean islands: flattening buildings, cutting off power and water, and costing 10 lives.

The hurricane battered Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, and swept across Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It weakened to a tropical storm temporarily, but has now regained hurricane strength as it makes landfall in Texas and western Louisiana.

Follow latest updates on Hurricane Beryl as Category 1 storm makes landfall in Texas

At 4am UK time on Monday morning, the US National Hurricane Center warned: “Data from the National Weather Service Doppler radar near Houston, Texas, and reports from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that Beryl’s maximum sustained winds have increased to near 75 mph (120 km/h).

“Based on these data, Beryl is upgraded to a hurricane. Additional strengthening is expected before landfall on the Texas coast.

The UK Foreign Office has said people should “follow and monitor local and international weather updates from the US National Hurricane Center and follow the advice of local authorities including any evacuation orders.”

The storm has struck at a time of year when many travellers are visiting the region. These are the key questions and answers.

What are the effects so far?

The worst damage appears to be in the small islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique, which are part of Grenada. Carriacou was left “flattened” with more than 98 per cent of the buildings, including the main health facility and airport, damaged.

“We have to rebuild from the ground up,” said Grenada’s prime minister, Dickon Mitchell, after visiting the islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

Two of the three deaths in Grenada were recorded on Carriacou. “The possibility there may be more fatalities remains a grim reality as movement is still highly restricted,” Mr Mitchell said.

St Vincent and the Grenadines was also badly hit. The prime minister, Ralph Gonsalves, said: “On one island in the Grenadines archipelago, the Union Island, 90 per cent of homes have been severely damaged or destroyed.”

The impact in Jamaica was devastating. About two-thirds of homes are without power. All flights from the island’s airports were cancelled on Wednesday and the authorities will be assessing the conditions at each before reopening. Damage is reported at the airport serving the capital, Kingston.

What is the outlook?

The National Hurricane Center says: “Tropical Storm Beryl is expected to intensify as it moves northwest through the Gulf of Mexico, before it takes a northerly turn to make landfall along the mid-Texas coast as a hurricane on Monday.

“Interests in Texas should closely monitor this system and finalise preparations for hurricane impacts, including heavy rainfall, flooding, potential tornadoes, and damaging winds as the system moves inland across the state.

“There is a danger of life-threatening storm surge inundation along the Texas coast from Mesquite Bay to Sabine Pass, including Matagorda Bay and Galveston Bay. Residents should follow any advice given by local officials and follow evacuation orders!

“Considerable flash and urban flooding is expected through Monday night across portions of the middle and upper Texas Gulf Coast and eastern Texas. Minor to isolated major river flooding is also expected.

“Rip currents will cause life-threatening beach conditions through Monday across much of the Gulf Coast. Beachgoers should heed warning flags and the advice of lifeguards and local officials before venturing into the water.”

What are the options for travellers in the region?

Airlines have cancelled hundreds of flights in and out of both George Bush Intercontinental and Hobby airports. British Airways has cancelled its two London Heathrow-Houston flights on Monday, as well as the inbound services.

Austin, Corpus Cristi, Harlingen, McAllen and San Antonio airports are also affected.

Southwest Airlines, which is based in Texas, says passengers booked up to 9 July “who want to alter their travel plans may rebook or travel standby (within 14 days of their original date of travel between the original city pairs and in accordance with our accommodation procedures) without paying additional charges”.

Passengers booked on Delta from 7 to 9 July can rebook without paying a change fee; up to 12 July, any fare difference will be waived.

United has a similar policy, with free changes available to 16 July.

American AIrlines is also applying a “travel by” date of 16 July, and adding cities in neighbouring states including Little Rock Arkansas and Lake Charles in western Louisiana.

Will travel insurance help?

Christina Tunnah, general manager of Americas for World Nomads, said; “If Hurricane Beryl derails your travel plans, the first point of call should be your airline or travel provider as they may provide aid. The same goes if your accommodation is impacted by the disaster.

“Travel insurance may offer cover for a range of events including trip cancellation, missed connection, and trip delay – but it depends on the type of travel insurance policy purchased and whether you’ve started your journey yet.

“At World Nomads, on our Explorer Plan, if your accommodation is affected, you may be covered for reasonable additional accommodation and transport costs. You may also claim for additional expenses incurred if your pre booked public transport is cancelled or delayed for more than 12-24 hours, depending on the scenario.”