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 Category 5 hurricane is sweeping through the Caribbean and has already caused severe damage in some of the eastern islands: flattening buildings, cutting off power and water, and killing at least two people.

Hurricane Beryl is now heading for Jamaica. The US National Hurricane Center says: “A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Jamaica, where hurricane conditions are expected on Wednesday. A Tropical Storm Warning is also in effect for the south coast of Hispaniola, and a Hurricane Watch is now in effect for all of the Cayman Islands.

“Heavy rainfall and flash flooding are likely over much of Jamaica on Wednesday.

”Interests in Belize, the Yucatan Peninsula, Cuba, and the southwestern Gulf of Mexico should monitor the progress of Beryl.”

Some flights serving Kingston and Montego Bay airports in Jamaica on Wednesday have already been cancelled, and others are likely to be grounded.

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.

A spokesperson for the Grenada Tourism Authority said: “The island of Grenada has thankfully largely escaped the effects of Hurricane Beryl, and the Maurice Bishop International Airport reopened this morning.

“The major airlines have already announced the return of their scheduled flights and hotels have also reported that they are fully operational.

“However, we’re deeply saddened by the widespread damage and news of fatalities on our sister islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique. We are working closely with the emergency services to ensure support and relief efforts are in place as soon as possible, as well as the restoration of vital services.”

What is the outlook?

The government in Jamaica warns: “Hurricane Beryl continues to threaten the island with devastating impacts. The following dangerous effects of a hurricane are expected to affect Jamaica in 36 hours or less: dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves, even though winds expected may be less than hurricane force, and Average winds of at least 119 km/h (74 mph).

“As the centre of Beryl moves closer to the island, expect heavy rainfall to begin affecting the island early on Wednesday.

This would later be accompanied by possible hurricane force winds across the island, and dangerous storm surges, and battering waves along coastal areas of mainly southern parishes.”

The Cayman Islands is on “Hurricane Watch”, meaning hurricane-force winds, heavy rainfall, and dangerous storm surges are possible within the next 48 hours, and the government warns: “Avoid non-essential travel and stay indoors once the hurricane conditions begin to manifest.” Shelters are available if necessary.

What is being done for travellers in the region?

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

Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays is telling customers in Jamaica: “Please remain in your hotels and follow instructions issued by local authorities and hotels.”

The companies also say: “Flight VS188 from Grenada to London Heathrow on 2 July has been cancelled. We are currently waiting for the airport to reopen so we can look at rebooking options for our customers.

“We have extended your current hotels, therefore you can remain safely where you are. We will be in touch again by email as soon as we have new information for you and appreciate your patience while we work through looking at options for you.”

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

American Airlines says passengers booked to 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, Grand Cayman, Kingston and Montego Bay.

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.”