Tropical Storm Beryl makes landfall, bringing heavy rain to Fla., expected to head north to Ga.
In an image provided by the National Oceanic and Geographic Authority, shows s GOES satellite image of Tropical Storm Beryl as it makes landfall in Florida early on May 28, 2011. / NOAA
Updated at 12:52 a.m. ET
(AP) Tropical Storm Beryl has made landfall in northeastern Florida, bringing drenching rains and driving winds to the southeastern U.S. coast, forecasters said.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami reported that the center of Beryl made landfall near Jacksonville Beach at around 12:10 a.m., with near-hurricane-strength winds of 70 mph. The hurricane center reported late Sunday that the weather system was in the process of making landfall.
"There are strong rain bands that are rotating around the center of the storm..." forecaster Al Sandrik said in an audio statement on the NHC website.
The weather system is expected to continue dumping rain over parts of Florida and Georgia on Monday. It is expected to weaken as it moves inland and become a tropical depression by Monday night, and then moves out to sea.
Tropical storm warnings were in effect for the entire Georgia coastline, as well as parts of Florida and South Carolina.
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 early Sunday evening.
Beryl was expected to bring 4 to 8 inches of rain to parts, with some areas getting as much as 12 inches. Forecasters predict the storm surge and tide will cause significant coastal flooding in northeastern Florida, Georgia and southern South Carolina.
The weather system could complicate holiday traffic on Monday. It wrecked some Memorial Day weekend plans on Sunday, causing shoreline campers to pack up and head inland and leading to the cancellation of some events.
Campers at Cumberland Island, Ga., 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.
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, Fla., 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, Fla., 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 three people and a dog were rescued from a sinking recreational vehicle by crews in Charleston Harbor late Sunday morning.
"There were wave heights of roughly four feet, the waves started depositing water in the boat and the boat started to get overwhelmed, it started to sink," Petty Officer Christopher Evanson, a Coast Guard spokesman, told the Associated Press. "The Coast Guard was able to get on scene, get alongside the boat and disembark the passengers.
Evanson said the Guard is "trying to convince boaters and swimmers alike to stay away from the water. It's very dangerous right now and we're trying to stay vigilant and we're out there trying to ensure that everybody is safe.
In Jacksonville Beach, Fernando Sola said business was booming at his Happy Faces Ice Cream truck. A bus- full of tourists from South Carolina had stopped to buy some ice cream and watch the storm waters churn.
"There are actually more people than on a normal day. It's working out great," said Sola, taking a few moments away from scooping ice cream to people lined up in front of his truck.
Steady, heavy winds kicked up sand across the area, forcing onlookers to shield themselves with towels.
Jessica Smith and Chester Jaheeb decided to brave the waters despite many warnings for people to stay out. Jaheeb, who was born in India but lives in Jacksonville, said he had never experienced a tropical storm before.
"We were at a certain part that started pulling us out, like the rip current, so we decided to come to shore," said Smith, 17.
Taylor Anderson, captain of Jacksonville Beach's American Red Cross Volunteer Lifesaving Corps., said his lifeguards went body-surfing early Sunday to get acclimated with the surf conditions for what looked to be a long day. They also reviewed methods to determine where there might be riptides.
"They look for discoloration, the water moving paradoxically back to sea, and our lifeguards are trained to spot that, to keep people away from that, especially when the surf is this high. It makes those run-outs very dangerous. People can get sucked into those very fast, especially with the high surf and the high wind," he said.
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