* Storm near hurricane strength, landfall seen early Monday
* Beryl threatens heavy rains, possible flooding
* Dangerous surf, rip currents likely in coastal areas
By David Beasley
ATLANTA, May 27 Tropical Storm Beryl gained
strength as it closed in on the southeastern U.S. coast on
Sunday, dumping rain and whipping up heavy surf from
northeastern Florida to South Carolina.
The second named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season
was approaching hurricane strength ahead of an expected landfall
early Monday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
The powerful pack of thunderstorms has unleashed tropical
storm conditions along the coast in northern Florida and
Georgia, disrupting Memorial Day weekend plans for travelers and
At 11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT), Beryl had sustained winds near 70
miles per hour (112 kph) and was located about 75 miles (121 km)
south south-east of Brunswick, Georgia, the hurricane center
An increase in wind speeds to 74 miles per hour (119 kph) or
more would make it a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step
Saffir-Simpson intensity scale.
Forecasters, however, say they do not expect a significant
change in Beryl's strength before it comes ashore and predict it
will weaken to a depression by Monday night.
Beryl was moving west toward the U.S. coast at 10 mph (16
kph), with tropical storm force winds near the coast of
The storm's approach led some vacationers in Georgia to
leave early, said Alden Alias, the front desk manager at The
King and Prince Hotel on St. Simons Island, a popular coastal
"The waves are pretty big," she said. "The winds are
starting to pick up."
City officials in Jacksonville canceled Memorial Day
ceremonies scheduled for Monday and closed some local parks as
the storm drew closer. "I am encouraging all area residents to
stay indoors and off the streets as the storm hits," said
Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.
Computer forecast models show Beryl moving on an eventual
path back out over the Atlantic after coming ashore, posing no
threat to U.S. oil and gas installations in the Gulf of Mexico.
The storm is forecast to dump as much as 4 to 8 inches
(10-20 cm) of rain, with as much as 12 inches (30 cm) in some
areas, and threatens rip currents and possible coastal flooding,
the hurricane center said.
Beryl formed off the South Carolina coast late on Friday as
a subtropical storm, a reference to the storm's structure.
Subtropical storms usually have a broader wind field than
tropical storms and shower and thunderstorm activity farther
removed from the storm's center.
It was reclassified as a tropical storm on Sunday.
Beryl followed the season's first major storm, Tropical
Storm Alberto, which was the earliest-forming Atlantic storm
The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to
Nov. 30, though it is not unusual for storms to form earlier.