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Beryl: The little storm that smashed a big record

May 29, 2012|By Matt Pearce

Beryl’s here, and she hasn’t broken much — physically.

Once a tropical storm churning and gusting through the Atlantic with 70-mph winds, Beryl has now weakened into a depression, dumping buckets of rain all over the Southeast during Memorial Day weekend. As much as 8 inches was still expected Tuesday in the Carolinas.

Yet although Beryl didn’t blow out Southerners’ windows, it shattered a historical record by becoming the strongest tropical storm to hit the Atlantic coast before the official start of hurricane season — June 1, every year — in more than 100 years.

Beryl’s closest pre-season competition was an unnamed 1908 storm with 65-mph winds, National Hurricane Center meteorologist Chris Landsea told the Palm Beach Post.

Beryl is actually the second named storm to arrive before the 2012 hurricane season; Tropical Storm Alberto formed in the Atlantic a couple of weeks ago.

"It's been a very busy May," Landsea told the Palm Beach Post. "This is pretty rare to have. But it means nothing for the rest of the season. Sometimes you have a very active early season and the rest of the year is busy as well, and sometimes it flip-flops."

Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s predicted a “near-normal” hurricane season with a 70% chance for nine to 15 named storms with top winds of at least 39 mph; the average over the last couple of decades has been 12 per year.

Beryl’s rains short-circuited a few holiday vacation plans, broke a drought in Georgia and slowed — but didn’t stop — some Memorial Day events.

In Georgia, American Legion members worked through the rain at the Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Ga., on Memorial Day to plant small American flags by the headstone of every veteran.

"When we were setting up, I had a different shirt on and I got soaked to the skin. My socks and my underwear probably are too," said Jim Grismer, commander of American Legion Post 135 in Savannah, told the Associated Press. "I had so many people trying to talk me into moving it inside. But I said then you can't have the live firing salute and the flag raising."

The storm comes midway through the National Hurricane Center's Hurricane Preparedness Week, which ends Saturday.

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national@latimes.com

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