Beryl threatens rain, winds on southeast US coast - FOX Carolina 21

Beryl threatens rain, winds on southeast US coast

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Waves crash on the shores of St. Simon's Island in Georgia as subtropical storm Beryl approaches. (May 27, 2012/FOX Carolina) Waves crash on the shores of St. Simon's Island in Georgia as subtropical storm Beryl approaches. (May 27, 2012/FOX Carolina)
ATLANTA (AP) -

Campers at a barrier island on the Georgia coast were told to leave by Sunday afternoon as subtropical storm Beryl rumbles toward the U.S.

Cumberland Island is reachable only by boat and has a number of undeveloped beaches and forests popular with campers.

Fred Boyles, superintendent for the Cumberland Island National Seashore, said visitors are being told to leave by 4:45 p.m.

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 are also out clearing tree limbs and debris that could be tossed about by the storm's winds, which had reached 60 mph (97 kph) by late Sunday morning.

But business was booming at Red Dog Surf Shop in New Smyrna Beach where customers flocked to buy boards and wax in anticipation of the storm's high waves. Officials all along the coast warned of rip currents, waves and high tides - all of which can be dangerous but also tend to attract adventurous surfers.

Joe Murphy, a spokesman for the Ritz Carlton in Amelia Island, said he was not seeing a flood of checkouts or people trying to get off the island. The hotel expected about 140 checkouts out of 466 rooms, he said.

Outdoor dining had been moved inside and the hotel set up movies and family game activities, but the hotel had no plans to board up or move patio furniture inside.

"So far it's kind of business as usual, but with that sort of anticipation of what does the storm mean," Murphy said.

Beryl was centered about 125 miles (201 kilometers) east of Jacksonville. Current forecasts have it making landfall late Sunday or early Monday.

Tropical storm warnings were in effect for the entire Georgia coastline, as well as parts of Florida and South Carolina, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Beryl was technically considered a "subtropical storm," but the system of menacing storms was expected to bring winds and rain to the area regardless of its official classification.

Tropical storm conditions - meaning maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (72 kph) - were expected to reach the coast late Sunday morning or afternoon and continue through the night.

Beryl was expected to weaken to a depression Monday once it came ashore, the center said.

On Tybee Island, a barrier island not far from Savannah, water off the beaches was closed for swimming Sunday morning. Tybee Island fire Chief C.L. Sasser said winds of up to 42 mph were creating "horrendous water currents." Only people with flotation devices strapped or tethered to their bodies were being allowed into the water, and they were being cautioned to not venture in farther than knee deep.

"Even if you're standing in waist-deep water, the current can sweep you out quickly," he said.

His ocean rescue team pulled a total of 48 people from the water on Saturday, he said, including about 27 that were considered to be in life-threatening conditions. One man who was sucked under the water was rescued by friends and onlookers and was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

A band of showers soaked the beaches late Sunday morning, causing crowds to thin, Sasser said. With alternating rainy and sunny weather forecast throughout the day, he said he expected the crowds on the sands to ebb and flow.

In South Carolina, Janice Keith with the Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau said the office hadn't fielded any calls from concerned tourists.

In Beaufort County, emergency management deputy director David Zeoli said officials were continuing to monitor the storm and encourage people to have a plan in case conditions get worse.

Zeoli said winds had kicked up in the area that includes Hilton Head Island, a popular golf and beach destination. "It's just a wet day here," he said.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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