Tropical Storm Beryl could snarl US Memorial Day holiday traffic


By Kate Brumback and Kelli Kennedy, AP

Tropical Storm Beryl made landfall early Monday in northeast Florida, bringing drenching rains and driving winds to the southeastern U.S. coast on the country’s Memorial Day holiday, forecasters said.

The storm hit Florida around 12:10 a.m. with near-hurricane-strength winds of 70 mph (113 kph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. It was expected to continue dumping rain over parts of Florida and Georgia on Monday, before weakening as it moves inland Monday and Tuesday and then heads out into the Atlantic Ocean.

A tropical storm warning remained in effect early Monday for coastal areas of Florida and South Carolina, and it was expected to tangle holiday traffic after forcing the cancellation of some events and causing shoreline campers to pack up and head inland.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged Florida residents in the affected areas to “stay alert and aware.”

“Tropical Storm Beryl is expected to bring heavy rain and winds, and it is vital to continue to monitor local news reports and listen to the advice of local emergency management officials,” Scott said in a statement Sunday evening.

Campers at Cumberland Island, Georgia, which is reachable only by boat, were told to leave by 4:45 p.m. Sunday. The island has a number of undeveloped beaches and forests popular with campers.

However, many people seemed determined to make the best of the soggy forecast Sunday.

In Georgia, at Greyfield Inn, a 19th-century mansion and the only private inn on Cumberland Island, the rooms were nearly full Sunday and everyone was planning to stay put through the wet weather, said Dawn Drake, who answered the phone at the inn’s office on the Florida coast.

In Jacksonville, Florida, Sunday’s jazz festival and Memorial Day ceremony were canceled. Workers were also out clearing tree limbs and debris that could be tossed about by the storm’s winds. Winds had already knocked down tree limbs and power lines in parts of coastal Georgia, leaving hundreds without electricity.

But business was booming at the Red Dog Surf Shop in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where customers flocked to buy boards and wax in anticipation of the storm’s high waves. Officials along the coast warned of rip currents, waves and high tides — all of which can be dangerous but also tend to attract adventurous surfers. The waters had already become dangerous in South Carolina, where rescuers were searching for a missing swimmer.

The Coast Guard said crews in Charleston Harbor rescued three people and a dog from a sinking recreational vessel late Sunday morning.