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Hurricane Beryl bearing down on Lesser Antilles

Beryl becomes the first hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season

By Sunday, before Beryl touches land somewhere along the central Lesser Antilles, the storm is forecast to be much weaker becoming a tropical cyclone or even just a tropical disturbance.

On Friday, the National Hurricane Center upgraded a tropical storm in the central Atlantic to Hurricane Beryl, with top wind speeds of 80 miles per hour.

A unique aspect of Beryl, is that it is the furthest southeast that a named storm has ever formed this early in the hurricane season. Its hurricane-force winds extended only about 10 miles from the storm's center, and tropical storm-force winds extended up to about 35 miles from the center. "By Tuesday, a faster northeastward motion is expected to begin", forecasters said.

Beryl could still be a hurricane when it reaches the Lesser Antilles late Sunday or Monday.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Beryl weakened to a tropical storm Saturday but is still expected to dump heavy rain over the Lesser Antilles at the end of the weekend on its way to the eastern Caribbean, bringing a new threat to islands still rebuilding from last year's storms.

The Dominica Meteorological Service issued an update at midday Friday, advising that a Hurricane Watch would be issued at 5:00 pm Dominica time.

Forecasters said Beryl probably would dissipate once it moved south of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Small storms can morph quickly - Beryl flared up from a depression Thursday morning to a hurricane in less than 24 hours.

N.H.C. said Beryl is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 2 to 4 inches through Sunday across the southern Leeward Islands and northern Windward Islands, including Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, and Barbados. The storm's hurricane-force winds are only 20 miles wide, relatively small for a hurricane, so Beryl's behavior is especially unpredictable.

Though the storm's intensity could still fluctuate unpredictably, its chances of regaining hurricane strength before reaching the Lesser Antilles, the arc of islands from the US Virgin Islands to Grenada, have dropped significantly, CNN meteorologists said. High pressure to the north will be the steering mechanism over the next few days.

If the wind shear kicks in later, Beryl could survive as a hurricane into the Caribbean.

The system is moving west at 15 miles per hour and is expected to accelerate movement west to northwest over the weekend. While the storm will cause some disturbances in the Caribbean, early maps show it steering clear of the state of Florida.