Hurricane Beryl strengthened as it neared the Texas coast on Sunday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said, forcing the closure of major oil ports, flight cancellations and a warning it would be a deadly storm for communities hit.

Beryl, the earliest category 5 hurricane on record, last week swept through Jamaica, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, toppling buildings and power lines and killing at least 11 people.

The storm weakened after its deadly trail of destruction across the Caribbean, but strengthened into a category 1 hurricane as it crossed the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

By the time it reaches landfall near Houston on Monday it could be a category 2 storm.

“Additional strengthening is expected before landfall on the Texas coast,” the NHC said in its latest advisory.

Acting Governor Patrick on Sunday declared 120 counties to be disaster areas ahead of the storm and warned Beryl “will be a deadly storm for people who are directly in that path.”

School systems – including the state’s largest in Houston – said they would be closed as the storm approached. Airlines canceled hundreds of flights, and officials ordered a smattering of evacuations in beach towns.

Closures of major oil-shipping ports around Corpus Christi, Galveston and Houston ahead of the storm could disrupt crude oil exports, shipments of crude to refineries, and motor fuel from the plants.


Most of the northern Gulf’s offshore oil and gas production is east of Beryl’s forecast track.

Some oil producers, including Shell SHEL.L and Chevron CVX.N, had evacuated personnel from their Gulf of Mexico offshore production platforms ahead of the storm.

Citgo Petroleum Corp said it plans to keep the Corpus Christi refinery running at minimum production as the storm moves up the coast.

Gibson Energy GEI.TO, which operates a large oil terminal in Corpus Christi, said operations were continuing, but it would take further steps depending on the forecast.