Hurricane Beryl Is Now the Earliest Category 4 Storm Ever, Already Realizing NOAA’s Prediction That 2024’s Season Could Break Records

A storm this strong so early in the season is rare—here’s what it means for you.
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What You Need to Know

  • Hurricane Beryl is now being called a ‘life-threatening’ and ‘extremely dangerous’ Category 4 storm, and has made landfall in the Caribbean Sea. Beryl has broken the record for the earliest Category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic Basin.
  • A perfect storm of risk factors has the potential to make this hurricane season one of the most active on record. 
  • Storm seasons have been intensifying due to climate change—and more homeowners than ever before should prepare to be impacted.
  • There are a few key ways to be prepared, including making emergency plans and checking your insurance policies.

Update July 1st, 2024

Hurricane Beryl has made landfall on Carriacou Island in the Caribbean as an ‘extremely dangerous’ record-breaking Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph. Experts have already predicted that this year’s hurricane season risks being unprecedented, and a storm so strong so early in the season is being considered a warning for what’s to come. In fact, not only is Beryl considered the earliest Category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic on record, but it also intensified rapidly, growing from a Category 3 storm to a Category 4 in just 42 hours—a phenomenon that has only occurred six other times. Above-average ocean temperatures—due to climate change—have created the ideal conditions for a devastating season.

Hurricane Beryl is expected to barrel west into the Caribbean Sea, but its long-term path is uncertain. However, the storm is likely to continue to have a devastating impact as a Category 3 storm through mid-week.

Every year, forecasters predict the number of hurricanes that can be expected in the Atlantic Ocean during hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30. These predictions help state and local governments prepare for natural disasters and can also help residents of the states most likely to be impacted to prepare. This hurricane season is expected to be especially active.

In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts an 85 percent chance that the 2024 hurricane season will be more active than usual. According to the NOAA, that equates to the following likelihoods:

  • 17 to 25 total named storms are likely to develop with winds of 39 miles per hour (mph) or higher
  • 8 to 13 are likely to become hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or higher
  • 4 to 7 are likely to become major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or higher

Alex DaSilva, lead hurricane forecaster with AccuWeather, elaborates. “There are clear warning signs and indicators of a potentially explosive hurricane season this year,” he says. “AccuWeather issued our Hurricane Forecast back in March, predicting 20 to 25 named storms and four to six direct impacts on the United States this year.”

Experts Weigh In on the 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season

So why do experts predict such an active hurricane season? There are several main factors that helped them reach these conclusions.

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Warm Ocean Temperatures Fuel Tropical Weather

DaSilva explains that one of the main factors that led to this year’s hurricane season predictions is warming ocean temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean—particularly in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. “The temperature threshold for tropical development is roughly 80 degrees,” he explains. “We’re seeing water temperatures running well above that. In some places, water temperatures are already in August territory.”

Warm ocean temperatures are one of the main contributors to hurricane and tropical storm development. “Warm water at the surface and hundreds of feet deep can act like jet fuel, helping tropical storms develop and rapidly intensify into hurricanes,” DaSilva explains. “The warm water temperatures we are seeing right now [are] substantially warmer than in 2005 and 2020. Both years saw catastrophic hurricane impacts in the United States.”

As ocean temperatures continue to increase, it’s possible that future hurricane seasons could be just as active as 2024 is expected to be—or even more active.

Shifting Weather Patterns Create Disruptive Winds

Another huge factor at play in predicting 2024 hurricane activity is a shift in weather patterns from El Niño to a La Niña. As DaSilva explains, “La Niña typically leads to less wind shear across much of the Atlantic Basin. Wind shear is essentially a change in wind speed and direction at different heights in the atmosphere. The less disruptive the winds there are, the more favorable conditions are for storms to develop and intensify.”

With this shift, the Southeast U.S. can expect to see plenty of activity this year when it comes to tropical storms and hurricanes—and the threat could last longer than in a typical hurricane season. “The shift to a La Niña pattern this summer also often boosts the African easterly jet stream on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean,” says DaSilva. “A stronger African jet stream could lead to more tropical waves later in the season, which provides more opportunities for tropical storms to form.”

The shift in weather patterns could mean stronger hurricanes later in the season—or even a lengthened hurricane season altogether.

A Strong Bermuda-Azores High Directs More Storms Toward the U.S.

High atmospheric pressure can also contribute to a more active hurricane season in the U.S. The Bermuda-Azores High is a center of high atmospheric pressure located in the Atlantic Ocean that circulates the air clockwise. Depending on its location, it can send strong storms directly toward the Southeastern U.S. That appears to be the case this year.

“The Bermuda-Azores High…is forecast to be a bit farther south and east compared to the historical average location due to warmer sea-surface temperatures,” explains DaSilva. “When the Bermuda-Azores High is stronger, there’s a greater chance of storms being directed into the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, which increases the odds of any tropical systems tracking toward the United States.”

6 Ways to Prepare for Hurricane Season

Knowing that 2024 is likely to be an active hurricane season, how can you best prepare? There are several things you can do now to ensure you’re ready if disaster strikes and you’re personally impacted by one of the predicted hurricanes.

1. Assemble Your Emergency Kit

If you haven’t already, now is the time to check your emergency kit—and start one if you haven’t already. Think about the types of supplies you’ll need if you’re stuck at home without power for a few days. Ready.gov recommends including the following items in your kit:

  • Nonperishable food items and a can opener
  • Bottled water
  • Prescription medications
  • Eyeglasses and contact lens solution
  • Phone chargers and power banks
  • Batteries
  • Flashlights
  • A weather radio
  • A first aid kit
  • A whistle
  • Cash
  • Blankets
  • Entertainment items such as playing cards, board games, puzzles, and coloring books

It’s also essential to have a copy of your homeowners insurance policy handy, as well as personal identification and bank account records in case you need to access your money without your ATM card. This may also be the best time to buy a generator—that way, if you do lose power from the grid, you can still run the essentials like the refrigerator, stove, and heat or AC.

If you already have an emergency kit, check it to make sure the food items haven’t expired and replace any that have. You can also consider whether there are any additional items you need in an emergency and add them to the kit. Make a bug-out bag list of the things you need to have with you, and check frequently to make sure everything is there.

2. Make an Evacuation Plan

Depending on where you live, you may be located within a hurricane evacuation zone. The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) has a list of states and cities that are within hurricane evacuation zones, but you can also contact your local emergency management office for more information. If you do live in a designated evacuation zone, make a plan so you know what to do if a hurricane is headed your way.

If you must evacuate, it’s smart to have several options available for getting out of your neighborhood since one or more roads may be blocked or congested. It’s also a good idea to have numerous options for where to go if you need to evacuate in case one option is not available. Make sure everyone in your household knows the plan and that you have a way to stay in contact and a place to reunite if you get separated.

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3. Check Your Homeowners Insurance Coverage

A policy from one of the best homeowners insurance companies (such as Allstate or Lemonade) can cover damage to your home and belongings from many types of windstorms, including hurricanes. But the exact coverage will vary depending on your provider. Some insurance companies may also have a separate deductible (the amount of the claim you are on the hook to pay) for hurricane damage, so it’s essential to check your policy to see what is and isn’t covered in your hurricane insurance.

There are several types of coverage that may apply after a hurricane has damaged or destroyed your home, up to the policy’s limits.

  • Dwelling coverage can help pay for repairs to the structure of your home and any attached structures, such as an attached garage or deck, after a hurricane causes damage. A deductible applies to this type of coverage.
  • Personal property coverage can help pay to repair or replace personal property, such as furniture, clothing, and electronics, that are damaged or destroyed during a hurricane. Both personal property and dwelling coverage are covered under one deductible.
  • Loss of use coverage can help pay for additional living expenses such as hotels, meals out, or parking if you’re required to temporarily relocate while your home is repaired after a hurricane causes damage. There is no deductible for this type of coverage.

If you’re not sure exactly what is and isn’t covered by your policy, consider calling your insurance provider and asking an agent to explain your coverage. That way, if you do need to file a hurricane damage claim, you’ll already know what is likely to be covered by your policy.

4. Consider Getting Flood Insurance

Although homeowners insurance can cover certain damages caused by a hurricane, it will not cover flooding damage. For this reason, it’s a good idea for those living in hurricane-prone areas to purchase coverage from one of the best flood insurance companies in addition to their traditional homeowners insurance policy.

“During tropical storms or hurricanes, homes may experience flooding,” says Fred Malik, managing director of FORTIFIED at the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), a nonprofit research organization that studies ways to strengthen homes and businesses to prevent damage from severe weather and wildfire. “Most homeowners insurance policies do not cover flood damage. A homeowner should consider a National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policy to cover direct physical losses to structures and belongings.”

Depending on where you live, your mortgage lender may require you to carry flood insurance coverage. According to the National Flood Insurance Program, any business or homeowner with a government-backed mortgage is required to purchase and maintain flood insurance if they live in a high-risk area. The same can be true for conventional mortgage lenders as well.

Additionally, if you’ve previously been the recipient of federal disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), you’re required to have flood insurance coverage to qualify for any future federal disaster aid.

5. Check Your Roof and Garage Doors

When a hurricane hits, your entire home can be vulnerable—but your roof and garage doors can be especially vulnerable. Therefore, it’s advisable to check both before a hurricane is forecasted and to take action if needed.

“With an active hurricane season forecast for 2024, IBHS encourages homeowners to act now and has identified the roof and garage doors as the areas of homes particularly vulnerable and most important to strengthen to withstand storms,” explains Malik.

You may want to ask your insurance provider about special endorsements to help provide additional coverage for the most vulnerable areas of your home. “Homeowners should also ask about a FORTIFIED endorsement,” recommends Malik. “This coverage will pay additional funds to help offset the cost of upgrading a damaged roof to a FORTIFIED Roof, if it is being replaced due to a covered loss. A FORTIFIED Roof minimizes the risk of damage caused by wind and wind-driven rain.”

Upgrading to a stronger roof can help your home withstand future storms as well. “IBHS testing shows asphalt shingles, particularly as they age, can dislodge in winds as low as 60 mph,” explains Malik. “Once the roof cover is lost, rain can pour into a house through the gaps in the wood roof decking. In fact, tests show the equivalent of as many as nine bathtubs of water can enter a home with every inch of rain.”

Old or flimsy garage doors can also cause issues if the home is hit by a hurricane. “If a garage door fails, pressure builds inside the garage and pushes up on the roof and out against surrounding walls, often resulting in a cascade of structural damage to the entire building,” explains Malik. He recommends checking your garage door to see if it’s labeled as wind-resistant. If it’s not, replacing it or reinforcing it can help it better withstand the strong winds associated with hurricanes.

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6. Know Your Mortgage Relief Options

If your home is hit by a hurricane, you may be unable to live there. Even if your homeowners insurance provides funds to cover additional living expenses such as hotels or short-term rentals, you may wonder what to do if you can’t continue paying your mortgage while your home is unlivable. Luckily, there are some options to be aware of.

“If your home has been damaged or destroyed in a hurricane, it’s imperative to contact your mortgage servicer right away to make them aware of the situation and to discuss potential payment relief options,” advises Rulon Washington, executive director of mortgage sustainability at Wells Fargo. “If possible, you should continue to make regular mortgage payments, but talking with your servicer will help you understand other options that might be available, such as short-term disaster relief.” 

The exact amount of disaster relief available will depend on your mortgage provider—though, according to Washington, banks often provide up to 90 days of disaster relief.  “[This relief] may include waiving or refunding late fees, suspending collection calls, suppressing negative credit reporting, and suspending new foreclosure referral or sale activities,” he explains.

Once that disaster relief period has ended, it’s vital to still keep in touch with your mortgage servicer. “Not all customers may be able to begin making their payments after disaster relief expires, and servicers want to work with impacted customers to identify additional assistance options,” explains Washington. “Staying in contact with your mortgage servicer is the most important action you can take if your home is damaged.”

If you live in a coastal area at risk of hurricanes, it’s vital to be prepared for the worst, whether experts predict two hurricanes or 20. Knowing that 2024 is likely to be an active hurricane season, it’s more important than ever to have a plan in place.