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Beachgoers in Southeast brace for rain, wind, dangerous surf from Beryl

Beachgoers in Southeast brace for rain, wind, dangerous surf from Beryl
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Saturday, May 26, 2012 - 6:47pm

It has been a picture perfect start to the Memorial Day weekend for beachgoers basking in sunny skies from northeastern Florida to South Carolina -- but it won't last long.

They can thank subtropical storm Beryl, which is threatening to dump several inches of rain and bring heavy winds just in time to put a damper on the long holiday weekend.

Even before a drop of precipitation has fallen ashore, Beryl already has rustled up ocean water and prompted "red flags" -- warning people to stay out of the surf -- around the region Saturday. The National Weather Service reported that at least 20 people were rescued off Tybee Island, Georgia, located 15 miles east of Savannah, by 12:20 p.m. due to rip currents.

Storm watchers have been surveying Beryl from a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance aircraft.

After being stalled in the western Atlantic Ocean earlier in the afternoon, Beryl was churning southwest at a rate of 6 mph, according to a 5 p.m. ET National Hurricane Center advisory. It was then centered about 220 miles east-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, and 315 miles east-northeast of Jacksonville, Florida.

Beryl is forecast to turn toward the west by late Sunday, at which point its center should be over land in portions of the U.S. Southeast, the Miami-based agency said.

By then, the system will likely have experienced "a little strengthening" -- even more bad news for beachgoers.

The storm had sustained winds of about 45 mph and stronger gusts as of 5 p.m., similar to what the hurricane center reported earlier in the day.

Mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s were the rule much of Saturday from St. Augustine, Florida, up the Atlantic Coast to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

But these prime sand-castle-making and tanning conditions could change drastically by Saturday night and more likely into Sunday and Monday. The National Weather Service is forecasting a good chance of rain and possible tropical storm conditions in places like Jacksonville through the rest of the long weekend.

A tropical storm warning -- indicating that, beside rains, winds stronger than 39 mph are expected to strike within 36 hours -- now is in effect for a large swath of coast from the border of Volusia and Brevard counties in Florida up to Edisto Beach, South Carolina. There is a less severe tropical storm watch that extends from Edisto Beach north to the South Santee River.

Rain totaling 3-6 inches is expected from northeastern Florida to southeastern North Carolina, the hurricane center said.

Rising water will flood normally dry coastal locales, especially around high tide. Beryl also is forecast to spur a significant storm surge and possibly "dangerous surf conditions."

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