News24

Tropical storm Beryl weakens

2012-05-28 16:03

Atlanta - Tropical Storm Beryl weakened over northern Florida early on Monday, dumping heavy rain and knocking out power while disrupting Memorial Day plans for travellers and beachgoers.

The second named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season unleashed tropical storm conditions along the coast in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

City officials in Jacksonville cancelled Memorial Day ceremonies scheduled for Monday and closed some local parks as the storm drew closer. "I am encouraging all area residents to stay indoors and off the streets," said Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

A Memorial Day event at Veteran's Cemetery in nearby St Augustine also was also cancelled, local media reported.

Downed electricity poles from Beryl's powerful winds caused minor power outages across the region.

By 08:00 (local time), Beryl's winds had dropped to 85km/h and the storm's centre was located about 30km east of Jacksonville, on Florida's northeast coast, and about 135km east-southeast of Valdosta, Georgia, the hurricane centre said.

Big waves

Beryl had been close to hurricane strength as it made landfall during the night, packing winds of 110km/h, the hurricane centre said. That was just short of the 119km/h or more that would have made it a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale.

Forecasters, said they expect a steady weakening in Beryl's strength as it continues to move inland over northeast Florida and into southeast Georgia by Monday night, and lessens to a tropical depression.

The storm's approach led some vacationers in Georgia to leave early, said Alden Alias, the front desk manager at The King and Prince Hotel on St Simons Island, a popular coastal resort town.

"The waves are pretty big," she said. "The winds are starting to pick up."

Computer forecast models show Beryl moving on an eventual path back out over the Atlantic after coming ashore, posing no threat to US oil and gas installations in the Gulf of Mexico.

The storm is forecast to dump as much as 10-20cm of rain, with as much as 30cm in some areas, and threatens rip currents and possible coastal flooding, the hurricane centre said.

Reclassifed

Beryl formed off the South Carolina coast late on Friday as a subtropical storm, a reference to the storm's structure. Subtropical storms usually have a broader wind field than tropical storms and shower and thunderstorm activity farther removed from the storm's centre.

It was reclassified as a tropical storm on Sunday.

Beryl followed the season's first major storm, Tropical Storm Alberto, which was the earliest-forming Atlantic storm since 2003.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from 1 June to 30 November, though it is not unusual for storms to form earlier.