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Beryl in the Gulf raises concerns about rip currents in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi

Beryl in the Gulf raises concerns about rip currents in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi

Beryl is a disorganized system in the Gulf of Mexico after it hit Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and lashed parts of the Caribbean. As the storm moves toward Texas, forecasters are raising concerns about stronger rip currents along the Gulf Coasts of Alabama and Florida. Red flag warnings are flying along the entire Gulf Coast. USA Today already lists Panama City Beach as one of the most dangerous places in the nation after seven people were killed.

After slamming into Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Beryl returned to the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where it was expected to regain hurricane strength on Saturday before heading toward the Texas coast, where officials urged residents to prepare for a possible impact. Beryl, the first storm to become a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic, caused at least 11 deaths as it swept through Caribbean islands earlier in the week. It then slammed into Mexico as a Category 2 hurricane, toppling trees but causing no injuries or deaths before weakening to a tropical storm as it moved up the peninsula.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center predicted late Friday that Beryl would strengthen Saturday before making landfall, prompting expanded hurricane and storm surge warnings.

“There is an increasing risk of damaging hurricane-force winds and life-threatening storm surge across portions of northeastern Mexico and the lower and mid-Texas coast late Sunday and Monday,” the center warned.

Texas officials warned the entire state’s coast to prepare for possible flooding, heavy rain and winds as they await a more defined storm path. On Friday, the hurricane center issued hurricane and storm surge watches for the Texas coast from the mouth of the Rio Grande northward to the San Luis Pass, less than 80 miles south of Houston.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, acting governor while Gov. Greg Abbott is traveling in Taiwan, issued a precautionary disaster declaration for 40 counties.

“Everyone along the coast (of Texas) should be keeping an eye on this storm,” Patrick said. “We’re hoping and praying that there’s nothing but rain.”

Some coastal Texas cities called for voluntary evacuations in low-lying flood-prone areas, banned camping on beaches and urged tourists traveling over the July 4 holiday weekend to remove their recreational vehicles from coastal parks. In Corpus Christi, city officials announced they had distributed 10,000 sandbags in less than two hours on Friday, exhausting their supply.

Beryl has already caused destruction in Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Barbados this week. Three people were reported dead in Grenada, three in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, three in Venezuela and two in Jamaica, according to authorities. Mexican authorities had moved some tourists and residents out of low-lying areas of the Yucatan Peninsula before landfall, but tens of thousands of people remained there to endure the high winds and storm surge. Much of the area around Tulum is just a few meters above sea level.