Hurricane Beryl takes aim at the Mexican resort of Tulum as a Category 3 storm

TULUM, Mexico — Hurricane Beryl strengthened back into a Category 3 storm and headed for what could be a direct hit on Mexico’s Caribbean coast resort of Tulum early Friday, where authorities urged tourists to leave white sand beaches.

Beryl was the earliest Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic before weakening to a Category 2 storm. But it regained strength late Thursday with windspeeds of 115 mph (185 kph) as it neared landfall on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador issued a statement late Thursday saying Beryl may make a direct hit on Tulum, which, while smaller than Cancun, still holds thousands of tourists and residents.

“It is recommendable that people get to higher ground, shelters or the homes of friends or family elsewhere,” López Obrador wrote. “Don’t hesitate, material possessions can be replaced.”

Once a sleepy, laid-back village, in recent years Tulum has boomed with unrestrained development and now has about 50,000 permanent inhabitants and at least as many tourists on an average day. The resort now has its own international airport, but it is largely low-lying, just a few yards (meters) above sea level.

As Friday began, the storm’s center was about 90 miles (145 kilometers) southeast of Tulum and was moving west at 16 mph (about 26 kph), the hurricane center said.

On Friday, Beryl was expected to weaken as it crossed over the Yucatan peninsula and re-emerge in the Gulf of Mexico, where the surprisingly resilient storm could once again become a hurricane and make a second landfall around Mexico’s border with Texas next week.

As the wind began gusting over Tulum’s beaches, four-wheelers with megaphones rolled along the sand telling people to leave. Tourists snapped photos of the growing surf, but military personnel urged them to leave.

Authorities around the Yucatan peninsula have prepared shelters, evacuated some small outlying coastal communities and even moved sea turtle eggs off beaches threatened by storm surge. In Tulum, authorities shut things down and evacuated beachside hotels.

Francisco Bencomo, general manager of Hotel Umi in Tulum, said all of their guests had left.

“With these conditions, we’ll be completely locked down,” he said, adding there were no plans to have guests return before July 10th.

“We’ve cut the gas and electricity. We also have an emergency floor where two maintenance employees will be locking down,” he said from the hotel. “We have them staying in the room farthest from the beach and windows.”

“I hope we have the least impact possible on the hotel, that the hurricane moves quickly through Tulum, and that it’s nothing serious,” he said.

Tourists were also taking precautions. Lara Marsters, 54, a therapist visiting Tulum from Boise, Idaho, said “this morning we woke up and just filled all of our empty water bottles with water from the tap and put it in the freezer … so we will have water to flush the toilet.”

“We expect that the power will go out,” Marsters said. “We’re going to hunker down and stay safe.”

Myriam Setra, a 34-year-old tourist from Dallas, Texas, was having a sandwich on the beach earlier Thursday, saying “figured we’d get the last of the sun in today, too. And then it’s just going to be hunker down and just stay indoors until hopefully it passes.”

But once Beryl re-emerges into the Gulf of Mexico a day later, forecasters say it is again expected to build to hurricane strength and could hit right around the Mexico-U.S. border, at Matamoros. That area was already soaked in June by Tropical Storm Alberto.

Velázquez said temporary storm shelters were in place at schools and hotels but efforts to evacuate a few highly exposed villages — like Punta Allen, which sits on a narrow spit of land south of Tulum — and Mahahual, further south — had been only partially successful.

Earlier, Beryl wreaked havoc in the Caribbean. The hurricane damaged or destroyed 95% of homes on a pair of islands in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, jumbled fishing boats in Barbados and ripped off roofs and knocked out electricity in Jamaica.

Three people were reported killed in Grenada and Carriacou and another in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, officials said. Three other deaths were reported in northern Venezuela, where four people were missing, officials said.

In the Pacific, Tropical Storm Aletta was located about 245 miles (395 kilometers) west of Manzanillo and had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph), and was forecast to head away from land and dissipate by the weekend.


Myers reported from Kingston, Jamaica. Associated Press writers Renloy Trail in Kingston, Jamaica; Mark Stevenson, María Verza and Mariana Martínez Barba in Mexico City; Coral Murphy Marcos in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Lucanus Ollivierre in Kingstown, St. Vincent and Grenadines, contributed to this report.

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