Tropical Storm Beryl weakened over northern Florida early Monday, dumping heavy rain and knocking out power while disrupting Memorial Day plans for travelers and beachgoers.
The second named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season unleashed tropical storm conditions along the coast in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
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," said Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.
A Memorial Day event at Veteran's Cemetery in nearby St. Augustine also was also canceled, local media reported.
Downed electricity poles from Beryl's powerful winds caused minor power outages across the region.
By 8 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT), Beryl's winds had dropped to 50 miles per hour (85 kph) and the storm's center was located about 20 miles (30 km) east of Jacksonville, on Florida's northeast coast, and about 85 miles (135 km) east-southeast of Valdosta, Georgia, the hurricane center said.
Beryl had been close to hurricane strength as it made landfall during the night, packing winds of 70 mph, (110 kph) the hurricane center said. That was just short of the 74 miles per hour (119 kph) or more that would have made it a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale.
Forecasters, said they expect a steady weakening in Beryl's strength as it continues to move inland over northeast Florida and into southeast Georgia by Monday night, and lessens to a tropical depression.
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 resort town.
"The waves are pretty big," she said. "The winds are starting to pick up."
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 since 2003.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, though it is not unusual for storms to form earlier. (Writing by David Adams. Additional reporting by Kevin Gray.)
© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.