Monday, May 28, 2012

A Beryl of Trouble

Yes, this is a play on words, but I think you will understand as the story unfolds.  This is not just about the current tropical storm, but also about one of its past lives.  What?  You see, there are six lists of names for hurricanes and so the list are rotated every six years.  The only way that a name leaves the list is for it to be retired, like Hugo, Andrew, Katrina, and Irene.

Visible image at 6:45 p.m. EDT on May 27.  Image Credit: NEDIS.
Beryl transformed from a subtropical storm to a tropical storm Sunday afternoon.  By late afternoon the storm was getting better organized and strengthening.  It made landfall near Jacksonville Beach, FL, just after midnight (12:10 a.m. Monday).  Highest sustained winds were estimated at about 70 mph mainly in squalls over the open water.  This highest wind gust on land occurred at Mayport, FL, with a gust of 73 mph late in the evening.

The system is now a tropical depression and is likely to make a very slow turn to the northeast over southern Georgia.  This will likely take 12 to 24 hours which means that there will be a great deal of rain for some areas.  Rains are already causing some flood issues for northeast Florida.

60 hr rainfall forecast.  Image Credit: WSI
The image at the right is a 60-hour forecast for rainfall covering the period from 8 a.m. Monday morning to 8 p.m. Wednesday evening.  Click on the image for a larger version.  Keep in mind that does not include rainfall prior to 8 a.m. Monday.  Thus, to get an idea of the total rainfall in northern Florida simply add the amounts prior to 8 a.m. to get an estimate of the total rainfall.

Flooding will be the biggest issue from Beryl now that is has weakened.  This is especially true since it is expected to move very slowly for the next 24 hours.

Image Credit: USDA.
Much of northern Florida and southern Georgia is suffering through and extensive drought.  This is aggravating the flooding since there is more runoff when the soil is dry.  It compacts and hardens making the flooding situation worse.  However, the rain is still welcome as there has been little rain since last year.  This may help save some of the crops in that area.

It will not help everyone in the drought area.  The map to the right is the latest drought monitor as of last week.  Click on the image for a larger view.  The area from Albany, GA to Aiken, SC will likely remain in an exceptional drought (worst stage).

Eighteen years ago there was another Alberto-Beryl combination that wreck havoc for the Southeast.  Both of the storms were tropical storms that moved out of the Gulf of Mexico into southwestern Georgia.

Alberto 94 moved inland and meandered through eastern Alabama and western Georgia for 4 days.  Record floods were reported in southwestern Georgia due to the incredible rains.  Americus, GA recorded 27+ inches of rain for the highest total.

Beryl 94 followed about 5 weeks later and moved into southern Georgia.  It briefly stalled before resuming a north-northeast path.  This took the center of the low pressure system across the western Carolinas.  Flooding was anticipated for the Midlands, but Mother Nature had other ideas.  From 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. there were 29 tornadoes reported across South Carolina.  Six of the tornadoes were in Lexington county, South Carolina, where 37 were injured.  It was the largest outbreak of tornadoes in South Carolina up to that time (this was broken in 2004).

So what can we expect from Beryl 2012?  The center will likely move northeast on Tuesday bringing heavy rains to the coastal plain.  How far inland that occurs is still in question, but it will likely cause some flooding near the coast.  There will still be the threat of isolated tornadoes as it moves along the coast.