The first named tropical storm of the hurricane season made landfall at 12:10 a.m. near Jacksonville on Florida’s Atlantic coast on Monday, May 28, according to the National Hurricane Center. It caused power outages and travel troubles for thousands in Georgia and Florida, but no deaths or injuries have been reported.
At landfall it was close to hurricane strength, with winds near 70 mph. Tropical Storm Beryl immediately weakened to a tropical depression, meaning its sustained winds stayed under 38 mph. Tropical storm-force winds range from 39 to 73 mph.
Georgia’s Cumberland Island National Seashore was closed. Memorial Day concerts, parades, and fireworks displays in southeast Georgia and northeast Florida were canceled. Riptides and rough surf led to beach closures. St. Augustine, Fla., canceled its planned Memorial Day jazz concert.
The good news is that Beryl is bringing rain to a parched area. South Georgia has been in an “extreme to exceptional drought, the two highest categories,” said Brian Edwards, a meteorologist with AccuWeather.com.
About two-thirds of Georgia is suffering from drought right now, and Beryl’s anticipated four to six inches of rain are badly needed.
Unfortunately, when rain falls very quickly much of it runs off, rather than soaking into the ground, and according to Edwards, “runoff is causing some creeks to rise in Florida and Georgia,” and there may be more flooding. The storm will not be a drought buster, because more than a few days of rain are needed to end the six to eight month-long drought, he said.
Savannah is not used to being hit by storms, according to Georgia Power spokesperson Lynn Wallace. “Of course everybody down here is a little perplexed.”
The Georgia coast bends inward in a way that shelters it from ocean storms, she said. The worst storms often hit land in the Carolinas or Florida.
The weather left 7,100 people without power, but Georgia Power crews from around the region worked all night and all day, and restored power to all but 560 households by 5:30 p.m. on May 28, said Wallace. “They work fast.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott asked local residents to be careful and to help warn holiday tourists of storm dangers. He said in a statement that holiday travelers might not be paying attention to media, but “it is vital to continue to monitor local news reports and listen to the advice of local emergency management officials.”
“Hurricane hazards come in many forms, including storm surge, heavy rainfall, inland flooding, high winds, tornadoes, and rip currents,” according to the National Hurricane Center of the National Weather Service (NWS).
NWS predicts that Beryl will move north and northeast through Georgia and the Carolinas before heading to sea by Thursday.
May 27–June 2 is Hurricane Preparedness Week, marking the start of hurricane season. The Atlantic hurricane season is June 1 through the end of November, according to NWS. The greatest threat to the United States from hurricanes happens from late August through October.
The NWS asks residents to “be a force of nature” by preparing for severe weather. People should make an action plan for weather disasters and keep a weather emergency kit with food, water, and other essentials. Copies of important documents should be stored away from home.
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