Sunday, May 27, 2012

Surprise! Beryl gets stronger

Tropical Storm Beryl is proving to be a surprise this Sunday afternoon, as it pushes toward a rare landfall in a place where tropical storms and hurricanes rarely make landfall.

That would be near Jacksonville, or perhaps up near the Florida-Georgia border, and it is expected to happen late Sunday night or early Monday.

Earlier Monday, Beryl was changed from a subtropical to a tropical storm,as it developed a warm core (center of circulation).

The original thinking was that Beryl, which was meandering with 45 mph top winds Saturday, wouldn't grow much in strength before making landfall. That proved to be wrong.
Fueled by warm water over the Gulf Stream, Beryl has consolidated its center and grown stronger Sunday. At 2 p.m., the top sustained winds were 65 mph -- considerably stronger than the original forecast. That leaves the storm only about 10 mph below hurricane status, although Beryl is not predicted to reach that level before landfall. The storm will be traveling over cooler water between the Gulf Stream and the coast, and that's not conducive to strengthening.

(Update at 9 p.m. ... Beryl is still about 75 miles east of Jacksonville, and top sustained winds are now 70 mph. It could become a minimal hurricane before making landfall.)

This storm is unusual in a couple ways.

Tropical systems rarely make landfall between Savannah and Daytona Beach. The last hurricane to make landfall near Jacksonville was Dora, in the mid 1960s.

And Beryl is the second named storm of the season -- yet the season hasn't even started officially. June 1 is the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season. The last May hurricane in the Atlantic was 42 years ago -- Alma. That one never made landfall in the U.S.

The last time a storm with winds of 60 mph or stronger hit the U.S. mainland in May was a Category 1 hurricane that hit the Outer Banks 104 years ago.

The National Hurricane Center said a buoy south of the storm's centered recorded a sustained wind of 43 mph and a gust of 52 mph around 1:30 p.m.

Incidentally, the storm's future is also being watched closely.  Originally, the thought was that Beryl would move inland and become stationary. That would weaken the storm to tropical depression status, and forecasters then expected it to be swept out to sea by an advancing cold front.

But some computer models now indicate Beryl's remnants will push northeast, along the I-95 corridor of the Carolinas. If that were to happen (probably on Wednesday), it could mean heavy rain will fall east of Charlotte -- and possibly not very far east of Charlotte.

Stay tuned.  This storm has proved difficult to predict.


Anonymous said...

Lived in Jax for about 20 yrs. We played golf in Cat I storms

Anonymous said...

It would help to have a map with this posting.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your updates. I need to drive up I-95 on Wed to I-26 at Charleston and wonder what that shall be like. I'll stay tuned.