SAVANNAH, Ga. – Joyce Connolly and her daughters left their home in Hurricane, W.Va., to head south for a Memorial Day beach vacation – and ended up in the center of Tropical Storm Beryl.
While it left little damage after sweeping ashore with 70 mph winds around midnight Sunday at Jacksonville, Fla., the storm still wrecked much of Connolly’s trip. She skipped a graduation ceremony because powerful winds kept her and her daughters from venturing past the beach boardwalk when the storm approached Sunday. She also postponed their drive home Monday as Beryl, downgraded to a tropical depression, continued to dump rain near the Georgia-Florida state line.
Beach trips, backyard barbecues and graveside Memorial Day observances got a good soaking in southeastern Georgia and northern Florida.
Beach lifeguards turned swimmers away from the ocean because of dangerous rip currents from Jacksonville to Tybee Island, Georgia’s largest public beach 140 miles to the north. The ocean was declared off-limits to swimmers for a second day in a row.
Veterans groups, meanwhile, carried out outdoor Memorial Day ceremonies despite the grim forecast.
At Savannah’s historic Bonaventure Cemetery – made famous by the book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” – American Legion members worked through a downpour to make sure its plot for veterans had a small American flag planted by each headstone.
Aside from ruining holiday plans, the rain was welcome on the Georgia coast for bringing some relief from persistent drought. According to the state climatologist’s office, as of May 1, rainfall in Savannah was 15 inches below normal for the past 12 months.
Emergency officials said minor flooding was reported near the coast, but the ground was quickly soaking up the water. And the winds had died down considerably.
Streets in Jacksonville Beach were unusually vacant. Bands of blinding rain alternated with dry conditions.
Taylor Anderson, captain of Jacksonville Beaches’ American Red Cross Volunteer Lifesaving Corps, said he was coordinating safety procedures with local government officials. Before the beach was closed on Sunday, lifeguards over and over again had to warn people to get out of the water, he said.