Hurricane Beryl: Travel advice as ‘life-threatening’ winds forecast

Hurricane Beryl: Travel advice as ‘life-threatening’ winds forecast

“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 hurricane battered Jamaica and the Cayman Islands and is now heading towards Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula – an area extremely popular with tourists.

Hurricane Beryl has been bringing 140mph winds and continuous rain and causing severe damage in many Caribbean islands: flattening buildings, cutting off power and water, and costing lives.

At 4am UK time on Friday morning, the US National Hurricane Center warned: “Hurricane-force winds, dangerous storm surge, and heavy rainfall are forecast to begin within the next few hours across the Yucatan Peninsula within the hurricane warning area.

“Residents there should shelter in place through the passage of these life-threatening conditions.

“There is an increasing risk of strong winds, storm surge, and heavy rainfall in portions of northeastern Mexico and southern Texas late this weekend.”

In the US, President Biden and his team are closely monitoring the situation, with those in the region urged to follow the advice of local officials.

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.”

This is happening at a time of year when many travellers are visiting the Caribbean. 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 has been 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?

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico from Puerto Costa Maya to Cancun, including the island of Cozumel. The National Hurricane Center says: “Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.”

A less-severe Hurricane Watch is in effect for the southern part of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and the area north of Cancun,

In addition, a Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the coast of Belize as far south as Belize City

The National Hurricane Center adds: “Regardless of the exact track, rip currents could cause life-threatening beach conditions beginning late Friday and continuing through the weekend across much of the Gulf coast.”

What are the options for travellers in the region?

Flights from Jamaica’s airports to the US are likely to resume on Friday morning after two days of blanket cancellations.

Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays say: “Should any airports close due to the weather and flights are disrupted, we will work with the hotels locally to extend your hotel until flights resume.”

Hotels have plans for keeping guests safe, and their instructions should be followed.

Friday’s British Airways departure from London Gatwick to Kingston is shown as operating on time.

A spokesperson for BA said: “Safety is always our highest priority and we continue to monitor the situation closely.

“As with other airlines we are adjusting our flight schedules where airport closures occur and providing any affected customers with alternatives including flight rebooking options or full refunds.” At present, Friday’s BA’s departure from London to Cancun is shown as operating on time.

Are the airports in Mexico open?

The main airport on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Cancun, has many flights on Friday already cancelled.

Tui’s 10am departure on Friday from Gatwick to Cancun is showing as delayed to noon, and would be likely to arrive at around 4.30pm local time. The 10.20am flight from Manchester appears to be departing four hours late.

The US Embassy says:

  • Cancun International Airport continues to operate but with numerous flight cancellations.
  • Cozumel International Airport has suspended flights on the Cancun-Cozumel route.
  • Tulum International Airport has suspended its activities and plans to resume operations on July 7.
  • Merida airport remains open but with numerous flight cancellations

I am booked to travel imminently to the region. What are my options?

American Airlines says passengers booked to or from Belize City, Cancun, Cozumel, Merida or Tulum on 5 or 6 July can defer their trip.

Those booked to or from Barbados, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent, Grand Cayman, Kingston, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios up to and including Friday 6 July can defer travel up to 10 July.

JetBlue has a similar policy for passengers to Belize City, Cancun, Grand Cayman, Kingston, Montego Bay and Tulum.

Virgin Atlantic is allowing passengers booked this week to defer trips up to 17 July.

“We are contacting affected customers regarding their travel arrangements, including the option to rebook if they no longer wish to travel. We’d like to thank them for their patience and understanding and recommend that all customers due to travel to or from the Caribbean over the next 48 hours check the status of their flight on before going to the airport.”

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.”