Jamaica braces for Beryl as St. Vincent and Grenada sister isles battered

Fishermen pull a boat damaged by Hurricane Beryl back to the dock at the Bridgetown Fisheries in Barbados, Monday, July 1, 2024.
AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan

When Hurricane Ivan devastated thousands of homes and leveled cinnamon, nutmeg and clove farms in Grenada back in September 2004, it took the mainland island years to recover but residents in the sister isles of Petite Martinique and Carriacou, in particular, say it will also take a long time for life to return to normal and millions in investments to achieve this after taking a devastating direct hit from Hurricane Beryl on Monday.

Carriacou to the north of Grenada took a hit from the category five storm with sustained winds of around 165 miles per hour and gusts of up to 200 as it barreled through the southeast Caribbean, damaging homes, fishing vessels, vehicles and downing trees in Trinidad’s sister isle of Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and Barbados. The storm also caused significant flooding and other types of damage in southern Martinique. Authorities have reported two deaths so far, one in St. Vincent and the other in neighboring Grenada when a tree fell on home killing its occupant.

Houses damaged by Hurricane Beryl in Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Monday, July 1, 2024.
Houses damaged by Hurricane Beryl in Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Monday, July 1, 2024. AP Photo/Lucanus Ollivierre

Beryl broke all records as it was one of the earliest storms ever to have formed on this side of the Atlantic, doing so in late June. Forecasters usually look out for fully developed hurricanes around late August to early September. But even as northern Caribbean nations like Haiti, The Dominican Republic, Jamaica and The Cayman Islands prepare for landfall on Wednesday and Thursday, governments and recovery experts in most of the affected islands are singing praises to the heavens that their nations were spared the worst.

Grenada Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell.
Grenada Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell. Photo courtesy Government of Grenada

“We have dodged a bazooka,” said Grenadian Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell as he addressed the nation in the aftermath of the direct hit. “The damage is as bad as it gets,” he said, noting that mainland Grenada while suffering damage to homes and fishing vessels “has escaped largely unscathed. We have to count our blessings,” he said as he and other regional leaders prepared for an emergency summit on Tuesday to assess damage and to coordinate a regional response.

Jamaica's Prime Minister, Andrew Holness.
Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness. Photo courtesy Government of Jamaica

But even as the region monitors the path of the storm, forecasters say Jamaica and The Cayman Islands to a lesser extent are on the path for a direct hit as the storm is predicted to gain even more strength from hot, open Atlantic waters. Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness has urged his countrymen to take all precautions and prepare for what could be mass devastation as he addressed the nation on Monday

“You have enough time, enough notice to take the necessary precautions,” he said

“Both the JDF and the Jamaica fire brigade have advised that at some point in time, their services will not be available. Our emergency services would not be able to operate in the heights of the hurricane, and even just before, and there may even be a delay after, so we encourage you to secure yourself by moving to higher ground, moving to safer ground, and making arrangements with your family members to find a safer place to be.”

In Barbados, Prime Minister Mia Mottley promised a full assessment of damage on Tuesday and Wednesday but she said preliminary indications are that about 40 homes were seriously damaged and a few dozen fishing vessels were either battered up or sank. These included the famous Jolly Roger and Dreamchaser party boats, both of which are now at the bottom of the harbor even as the storm had passed about 80 miles of the south of the island.

“If you really do not need to be on the road, stay home. There is going to be significant clean-up work where there has been damage, particularly in that Highway 7 area and in the areas of coastal assets and structures. So far, reports are of 40 homes with some kind of damage, roof loss, partial collapse or minimal like roof leaks. We expect that that number may increase because we have over 400 persons in shelters and now the all clear is given, some may return to their homes and find that it may have sustained damage,” she stated.

Other nations like St. Lucia and Dominica also suffered some damage with Lucian Prime Minister Phillip Pierre saying in an address that “let us thank God that our country was spared the worst of what could have been a disastrous weather event. I implore you to continue to remain in a state of preparedness as this is only the beginning of an active hurricane season,” he said.