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Hurricane Beryl lashes Texas; hundreds of flights cancelled

July 9 ------ Hurricane Beryl lashed Texas with strong winds and heavy rain as it churned inland, forcing the closure of oil ports, the cancellation of hundreds of flights and leaving thousands of homes and businesses in the state without power. Beryl, the season's earliest Category 5 hurricane on record, made landfall near the coastal town of Matagorda in Texas early in the day, pounding the coast with dangerous storm surges and heavy rain, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. The storm, which was expected to rapidly weaken as it moved inland, swept a destructive path through Jamaica, Grenada, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines last week, killing at least 11 people and toppling buildings and power lines.


In Texas, the biggest US oil and natural gas producing-state, the energy industry braced for Beryl's impact on Monday as disruption caused by the powerful storm slowed refining activity and prompted the evacuation of some production sites. "Life-threatening storm surge and heavy rainfall is ongoing across portions of Texas. Damaging winds ongoing along the coast, with strong winds moving inland," the NHC said, adding that Beryl was now expected to lose power. Following warnings that it could be a deadly storm for communities in its path, residents had rushed to board up windows and stock up on fuel and other essential supplies. Before daybreak, strong gusts and torrential rain lashed down on cities and towns such as Galveston, Lake Jackson and Freeport, television footage showed.


The storm had strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane as it crossed the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall, but the NHC said it was now expected to weaken rapidly. "Beryl is expected to weaken to a tropical storm later today and to a tropical depression on Tuesday," the NHC said. "Steady to rapid weakening is expected as the center moves inland." Hurricanes typically weaken as they move over land. Located about 55 miles (90 km) south south-west of Houston, Beryl was moving at 12 mph (19 kph) and was expected to barrel over eastern parts of the state through the course of the day before moving into the Lower Mississippi Valley into the Ohio Valley on Tuesday and Wednesday, the NHC said.


Acting Governor Dan Patrick on Sunday declared 120 counties to be disaster areas ahead of the storm and warned Beryl would be a deadly storm for people directly in its path. Schools said they would be closed as the storm approached. Airlines cancelled more than 1,300 flights, and officials ordered a smattering of evacuations in beach towns. Nearly490,000 homes and businesses in Texas lost power, according to Power data. Several counties in southeastern Texas—including Houston, where many US energy companies are headquartered—are under a flash flood warning as thunderstorms unleashed up to 6 inches (15 cm) of rain, with 2-4 more inches expected.


Resident Gary Short said he was most concerned about possible flooding. "I'm more worried about the rain than anything," he said as he filled up cans with gasoline at a service station on Sunday. "Other than that, not too concerned. Just getting ready." Closures of major oil-shipping ports around Corpus Christi, Galveston and Houston ahead of the storm could disrupt crude oil exports, shipments of crude to refineries, and motor fuel from the plants. Some oil producers, including Shell and Chevron, had evacuated personnel from their Gulf of Mexico offshore production platforms ahead of the storm.



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