Beryl builds into a 'major' hurricane in the Atlantic, NHC says

By Mrinmay Dey

(Reuters) - The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Saturday that tropical storm Beryl has intensified into a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean and cautioned that it may undergo rapid strengthening as it is fast approaching the Caribbean island of Barbados.

Hurricane Beryl, which may become "major," is expected to bring destructive winds and a life-threatening storm surge to the Windward islands starting tomorrow night, the Florida-based forecaster said in an advisory.

The center of the hurricane is expected to move across the Windward islands late Sunday night and Monday, NHC said.

Tropical storm Beryl emerged in the central tropical Atlantic on Friday, with its center positioned about 660 miles (1,062 km) east-southeast of Barbados, packing maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour, according to the NHC.

NHC has issued a hurricane warning for Barbados and much of the Windward islands, adding that hurricane conditions are expected beginning Sunday night.

It also warned of potential tropical storms that may occur in Martinique and Tobago within 36 hours, and, placed Dominica on storm watch.

"A life-threatening storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 5 to 7 feet above normal tide levels in areas of onshore flow near where Beryl makes landfall in the hurricane warning and watch areas," the forecaster said.

"Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves."

Beryl is moving west at 22 mph, the hurricane monitoring authority said, and forecasts that it would produce total rainfall of 3 to 6 inches (7.5 to 15 cm) across Barbados and the Windward islands on Sunday night which may continue into Monday.

Puerto Rico's southeastern regions may see 1 to 4 inches of rainfall from the hurricane, starting Monday night and continuing through Tuesday.

(Reporting by Mrinmay Dey and Gnaneshwar Rajan in Bengaluru; Editing by Paul Simao, Chizu Nomiyama, Daniel Wallis and Richard Chang)