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Hurricane Beryl rips past Jamaica causing a life-threatening storm surge

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The strongest storm ever recorded this early in the Atlantic season is forecast to bring strong winds, damaging waves and a dangerous storm surge to the Cayman Islands today. After killing at least seven people in the southeast Caribbean, Hurricane Beryl ripped past Jamaica overnight. It skirted the island nation after the National Hurricane Center predicted a devastating impact. To find out how bad it was, we've called up Nick Davis. He's a journalist based in Kingston, Jamaica. Hi, Nick.

NICK DAVIS: Hi, good morning. Good morning.

FADEL: Good morning. So was it a tough night? How are you doing?

DAVIS: The night was better than the day. I mean, it's a very unusual thing waiting for one of these storms to arrive because, you know, I mean, we're very interconnected nowadays, right?

FADEL: Right.

DAVIS: Everybody can see what's happening. And, you know, friends in Grenada, friends in Carriacou, were sharing what images they had of the devastation which was wreaked across their islands. So we were seeing it, and we knew how strong the storm was. And then we were expecting it to sort of start making its impact around about 8 o' clock local time, so a couple of hours ahead of us this time yesterday. And that's when the rain started. And that's when the wind started. And slowly but surely you could see it picking up pace. But honestly, it's very unusual and very different being in the city as being in, let's say, one of the more rural communities.

FADEL: Yeah.

DAVIS: The cities really kind of break it up, and that's been a really interesting thing.

FADEL: How bad has the damage been from the hurricane?

DAVIS: I mean, for myself, even just having a very quick assessment of...

FADEL: Yeah.

DAVIS: ...Around the area where I am, you can see lots of fallen trees. We lost power very early in the actual hurricane, predominantly because of the fallen trees. You know, we're also expecting the power companies to sometimes take down parts of the grid. That didn't need to happen because, you know, the outages happened because of these trees being blown over. So around about, you know, 400,000 people are still without power at the moment. The teams were unable to continue operating into the night. But we're expecting now as we're going into daybreak to sort of get a real extent of how much damage has happened to be infrastructure on the island.

FADEL: Do you have a sense of how this might compare to other hurricanes that have caused damage in Jamaica?

DAVIS: I was here - my parents are Jamaican, and my family are from island, and obviously - and I came here just after Hurricane Gilbert...

FADEL: OK.

DAVIS: ...In '88. And I could still see debris in '89 and '90 from that storm - you know, zinc, which had been blown off people's homes or damaged houses. You know, because of the effects of that particular storm, people are very cognizant of building quite strong - building in concrete, building in block, but it's the roofs of the homes without hurricane braces, which often bear the brunt of these sorts of storms. And so, later on today, that's what we're expecting to see. We've seen user sort of generated images of that sort of thing. But, yeah, it's going to be really the cleanup of some people's homes, and also making sure that people who left to go into shelters are able to come back to something because they're completely unaware of what may be left of their homes.

FADEL: How long do you think it'll take for power to be restored and things to get back to normal?

DAVIS: I mean, I'm lucky. I'm in the city. So in areas where there are large concentrations, it's normally quicker. Then they move to areas with slightly smaller concentrations, and then they go to individuals in more rural communities. So hopefully, we'll get power back soon, but that's a key part of any kind of reconstruction which is going to be happening.

FADEL: That's Nick Davis. He's a journalist based in Kingston, Jamaica. Thank you, Nick.

DAVIS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
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