The 5 p.m. position of Hurricane Beryl. (NHC)
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Hurricane Beryl, while tiny in size, is intensifying in the Atlantic Ocean well east of the Lesser Antilles, and its chances of striking the Antilles as a hurricane early next week are increasing.
At 5 p.m. the centre of Hurricane Beryl was located near latitude 10.6 N, longitude 47.8 W. Beryl is moving toward the west near 15 mph (24 km/h). A faster westward to west-northwestward motion is expected to begin over the weekend and continue through early next week.
On the forecast track, the centre of Beryl will approach the Lesser Antilles over the weekend and cross the island chain late Sunday or Monday.
The government of Barbados has issued a hurricane watch for Dominica, while the government of France has issued a tropical storm watch for Martinique, Guadeloupe, St Martin, and St Barthelemy.
Beryl has maximum sustained winds near 80 mph (130 km/h) with higher gusts. Some strengthening is forecast during the next couple of days, and Beryl could still be a hurricane when it reaches the Lesser Antilles late Sunday or Monday. Weakening is expected once Beryl reaches the eastern Caribbean Sea on Monday, but the system may not degenerate into an open trough until it reaches the vicinity of Hispaniola and the central Caribbean Sea.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 10 miles (20 km) from the centre, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles (55 km).
Beryl is currently located over 900 miles east-southeast of the Windward Islands, moving due west.
Beryl was upgraded to a hurricane based on microwave and infrared satellite imagery showing a "pinhole eye" had developed early Friday morning. Beryl's eye has recently closed off, and dry air may have gotten into Beryl's core.
Intensity forecasts with tropical cyclones as tiny as Beryl are notoriously difficult.
Given barely enough ocean heat content, low wind shear, and its location south of a plume of sinking, dry air known as the Saharan air layer, Beryl intensified quickly from a tropical depression at 11 a.m. on Thursday to a Category 1 hurricane just 18 hours later.
According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), these favourable conditions may remain in place the next few days, and Beryl could gain even more intensity.
At some point, upper-level winds are expected to become hostile to Beryl near the Lesser Antilles.
The timing of when that wind shear impacts Beryl will be critical.
A hurricane hunter mission is scheduled to investigate Beryl and its surroundings early Sunday.
If the wind shear kicks in later, Beryl may survive as a hurricane by the time it reaches the Lesser Antilles late Sunday or Monday.
If the wind shear kicks in earlier, Beryl may weaken sooner, and may sweep into the islands as a weaker storm.
Given Beryl's tiny size, it's too soon to determine which islands may see impacts and how strong the impacts will be, but periods of heavy rain, gusty winds and at least some locally choppy seas can be expected, regardless. (The Weather Channel/National Hurricane Center)