By RUSS BYNUM, The Associated Press
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) -- Subtropical storm Beryl crept Sunday toward the Southeast U.S. coastline, threatening to churn up dangerous surf and drenching rains for a soggy close to the long Memorial Day weekend along beaches from northeast Florida to South Carolina.
Tropical storm warnings were in effect for the entire Georgia coastline, as well as parts of Florida and South Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Center. Forecasters at the center in Miami said the cluster of thunderstorms was expected to make landfall sometime Sunday night or Monday in the region.
Beryl was technically considered a "subtropical storm," but the system of thunderstorms was expected to bring winds and rain to the area regardless of its official classification.
At 2 a.m. EDT Sunday, Beryl was centered about 185 miles (300 kilometers) southeast of Charleston, S.C. The hurricane center said the system had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph). It was moving toward the west-southwest at 7 mph (11 kph) and also was about 230 miles (370 km) east of Jacksonville, Fla.
Tropical storm conditions - meaning maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (72 kph) - were expected to reach the coast later Sunday. Three to six inches of rain were forecast for the area. Some coastal flooding also was in the forecast, as the rain could cause high tides.
Dangerous surf conditions are possible from northeast Florida to North Carolina over the holiday weekend, forecasters said.
The southeastern coast is popular with tourists who visit the beaches and wilderness areas.
"A three-day thunderstorm is what it's probably going to be," said Jay Wiggins, emergency management director for Glynn County, which is about 60 miles south of Savannah and includes Brunswick and St. Simons Island in Georgia. "Unfortunately, it's going to ruin a lot of Memorial Day plans."
Wiggins said he expects some flooded roadways and scattered power outages, perhaps some minor flooding in waterfront homes, but otherwise little damage. However, he urged beachgoers to beware of dangerous rip currents.
On Tybee Island, home to Georgia's largest public beach east of Savannah, employees at Amy Gaster's home and condo rental business were making sure arriving guests were aware of the approaching storm during the weekend. Gaster said her 180 rentals were sold out and nobody was canceling plans or asking to check out early.
While Georgia hasn't taken a direct hit from a major hurricane in 114 years, the last time a tropical storm made landfall here was in August 1988. Tropical Storm Chris hit near Savannah but did little damage as it pushed northward into South Carolina.
In South Carolina, Beaufort County Emergency Management deputy director David Zeoli (zee-oli) said Saturday that word went out to first-responders along the coast near the Georgia line to pay attention to the storm's progress.