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Beryl Storm Flooding Poses Risk To Florida And South Carolina Coasts

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STORM BERYL
Winnie Pajcic, 9, holds on to a railing as she leans back in the wind during a visit to Stockton Park in Ortega, Fla., in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Beryl on Monday May 28, 2012. | AP

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Residents along the Southeast coast were warned of possible flooding Tuesday from former Tropical Storm Beryl that left up to 10 inches of rain in northern Florida and was moving northeastward before heading back toward the coast and into the Atlantic.

Beryl sloshed ashore near Jacksonville, Fla., on Memorial Day and was a tropical depression late Tuesday with maximum sustained winds of 30 mph (45 kph). It was centered about 15 miles (20 kilometers) west-northwest of Savannah and was moving east-northeast near 10 mph (17 kph).

The National Hurricane Center said that, on that track, the storm was expected to skim along the South Carolina coast early Wednesday before moving back over the Atlantic and strengthening again into a tropical storm with sustained winds of more than 39 mph.

Beryl is the second named tropical system of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane season that doesn't officially begin until Friday.

Skies were hazy and the sun occasionally peaked through Tuesday in Charleston while there was a hazy sun for sunbathers at nearby Folly Beach. Swimmers stayed close to the shoreline as the surf roiled and yellow caution flags flew from lifeguard stations.

By late afternoon, flood watches for areas south of Savannah, Ga., were dropped although flash flood watches remained in effect for the mid-South Carolina coast and flood watches were posted for the upper coast.

Zarron Allen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jacksonville, said Beryl dumped 10 inches of rain in Sewanee County, Florida, while nearby areas wound up with 3 to 6 inches.

Forecasters had predicted that up to 4 inches could fall on parts of South Carolina, although dry air began to wrap into the system in Georgia and by late in the day, the forecast called for only about 2 inches of new rain.

Rain would be welcome along the South Carolina coast after what has been a warm winter and dry spring. Rainfall in the Charleston area is about 4 inches below normal for the year.

Meteorologist Brett Cimbora of the National Weather Service in Charleston said rain would be sporadic at first as bands of showers spin up off the ocean, then become steadier. "The storm is moving pretty slow and it's bringing in rain off the water," he said.

Cimbora said the threat of flash flooding along the coast is greater because it has been dry and the biggest possibility is late Tuesday. Dry soil is more compacted and sudden heavy rains wash off quickly instead of seeping into the ground, he said.

Reports from the National Weather Service indicated that damage from the system seemed confined downed trees and limbs. Rip currents were reported at the Isle of Palms northeast of Charleston.

The forecast from the National Hurricane Center said Beryl could regain tropical storm strength off the coast of the Carolinas Wednesday. But even so, tropical storm force winds were expected to stay offshore so no coastal warnings had been posted.

Cimbora said heavy winds were not expected in the Charleston area as the storm again approached the coast from land. But he said that some of the stronger storms within rain bands could have heavy winds.

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