Beryl makes landfall, weakens to a tropical depression
Tropical Storm Beryl lumbered ashore near Jacksonville Beach, Florida at 12:10 am this Memorial Day as an intensifying tropical storm with 70 mph winds. Beryl is only the second named storm to hit on a Memorial Day weekend in the U.S. (the three-day weekend was established in 1971.) The other was Subtropical Storm Alpha of 1972, which followed a path almost identical to Beryl's and made landfall as a 60 mph subtropical storm. Beryl's 70 mph winds at landfall make it the strongest landfalling May tropical cyclone since the May 29, 1908 hurricane, which had 75 mph winds when it brought tropical storm-force winds to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Figure 1. True-color MODIS satellite image of Beryl taken at 2:35 pm EDT May 27, 2012 by NASA's Aqua satellite. At the time, Beryl was a tropical storm with winds of 65 mph.
Damage from Beryl has been mostly minor, with reports of street flooding, trees down, one house with a roof torn off, and power outages to 25,000 people in the Jacksonville, Florida area. One swimmer is missing from Folly Beach, South Carolina, and lifeguards performed dozens of rescues along the Southeast U.S. coast over the weekend due to rip currents generated by Beryl's rough surf. A tornado warning was issued near 10:30 am EDT this morning for the region near the coast to the east of Jacksonville, and Beryl's spiral bands could produce rotating thunderstorms that will trigger more tornado warnings today. A few of the top winds generated by Beryl over the past day:
Mayport, Florida: 47 mph, gusting to 62 mph (11:10 pm Sunday night)
Buck Island, St. Johns River: wind gust of 73 mph (10:35 pm Sunday night)
Huguenot Park: 54 mph, gusting to 63 mph
Jacksonville Naval Air Station: 37 mph, gusting to 48 mph
Brunswick, GA: 31 mph, gusting to 45 mph
Buoy 41012, 46 miles ENE of St. Augustine: 47 mph, gusting to 58 mph
Figure 2. Estimated rainfall from Beryl from the radar out of Jacksonville, FL.
Forecast for Beryl
Beryl has weakened to a tropical depression, but will continue to spin and dump copious rains as it slowly treks through northern Florida, Southern Georgia, and coastal South Carolina Monday and Tuesday. Radar-estimated rainfall amounts as of Monday morning were generally 1 - 4 inches in Northern Florida and Southern Georgia, with a few regions of 4+ inches. Flooding due to heavy rains is probably not a huge concern with this storm, since the Southeast U.S. coast is under moderate to exceptional drought. The 4 - 8 inches of rain expected from Beryl will provide significant drought relief in Florida and Georgia, which are suffering rainfall deficits of 9 - 12 inches (Figure 3.) When Beryl pops off the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Wednesday, the storm will probably be moving fast enough that it won't have time to generate enough rain to cause serious flooding problems in those states.
Figure 3. Much of the Southeast U.S. needs 9 - 12 inches of rain (red colors) to bust the current drought. A drought is defined as "busted" when the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) goes higher than -0.5. Image credit: NOAA.
July-like heat wave continues over much of the U.S.
A strong high pressure system anchored over the central U.S. brought more record-smashing May heat to much of the country on Sunday. The heat was most notable in Indiana, where both South Bend (97°F) and Fort Wayne (96°F) set records for their hottest temperature ever recorded in May. Rockford, Illinois (99°) and Chicago (97°) both had their hottest temperature on record so early in the year. On Saturday, at least nine airports in the Midwest had their hottest May day on record, and 58 out of 456 U.S. airports set daily high temperature records. A compensating sharp dip in the jet stream allowed three airports in the Western U.S. to set daily coldest temperature records on Saturday. Numerous all-time May heat records will be threatened in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley today, where temperatures 15 - 20°F above average are expected.