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Beryl downgraded after causing little damage but is still dumping rain

Joyce Connolly and her daughters left their home in Hurricane, W.Va., to head south for a Memorial Day beach vacation -- and ended up in the center of Tropical Storm Beryl.

While it left little damage after sweeping ashore with 70-mph winds around midnight Monday at Jacksonville, Fla., the storm still wrecked much of Connolly's trip. She skipped a graduation because powerful winds kept her and her daughters from venturing past the beach boardwalk when the storm approached Sunday. And she postponed their drive home Monday as Beryl, downgraded to a tropical depression, continued to dump rain near the Georgia-Florida state line.

"It definitely changed our vacation to unfortunate circumstances that we're not happy with. But you just have to live with it," said Connolly, who at least found the irony of her hometown's name "pretty funny."

Beach trips, backyard barbecues and graveside Memorial Day observances got a good soaking in southeastern Georgia and northern Florida.

Beach lifeguards turned swimmers away from the ocean because of dangerous rip currents from Jacksonville to Tybee Island, Georgia's largest public beach 140 miles to the north. Skip Sasser, who oversees the island's lifeguards as its fire chief, said beach traffic was unusually thin for a holiday. The ocean was declared off-limits to swimmers for a second day in a row.

"It's been raining intermittently, so it's chased a lot of them off," Sasser said. "There was a lot of traffic this morning heading westbound out of Tybee."

Veterans groups, meanwhile, carried out outdoor Memorial Day ceremonies despite the grim forecast.

At Savannah's historic Bonaventure Cemetery, American Legion members worked through a downpour to make sure its plot for veterans had a small American flag planted by each headstone.

Aside from ruining holiday plans, the rain was welcome on the Georgia coast for bringing some relief from persistent drought. According to the state climatologist's office, as of May 1, rainfall in Savannah was 15 inches below normal for the past 12 months.

Emergency officials said minor flooding was reported near the coast, but the ground was quickly soaking up the water. And the winds had died down considerably.

The rainfall stopped in Savannah and other northern parts of the Georgia coast Monday afternoon, but more was expected through today.

Georgia Power reported about 2,900 coastal customers without power Monday morning, but that number dropped to 1,300 by afternoon. Jacksonville city officials say 20,000 were without power and bus service was canceled because of so many flooded roads, downed power lines and trees.

Beryl was expected to bring 4 to 8 inches of rain to parts, with some areas getting as much as a foot. Forecasters said the storm surge and high tide could bring 2 to 4 feet of flooding in northeastern Florida and Georgia, and 1 to 2 feet in southern South Carolina.

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