Storm Rakes Florida Coast; Region Faces New Floods
Beryl, the second tropical storm of the hurricane season, raked Florida’s Gulf Coast with rain and wind up to 50 m.p.h. Monday as it followed the same path taken by deadly Alberto last month.
The storm raised fears of flooding in Georgia, which is still wringing out from Alberto.
By early afternoon, heavy rain blew sideways along the beach, with steady downpours inland, and palm trees bent in the wind. People in low-lying coastal areas of Taylor, Dixie and Wakulla counties were urged to evacuate.
“We can’t take too much more rain,” said Alan Pierce, emergency management director for Franklin County, where last month’s floodwaters ruined the oyster harvest in Apalachicola Bay. “We’ve been having bad weather ever since Alberto. It’s getting real old.”
A tropical storm warning was posted for about 300 miles of Florida’s Gulf Coast from Ft. Walton Beach to Yankeetown, and Gov. Lawton Chiles declared a state of emergency.
Beryl did not pack the same wind punch as Alberto, which came ashore blowing about 70 m.p.h., nearly hurricane strength.
Rain was expected to be the greater problem. Beryl was expected to dump 3 to 5 inches of rain on Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and northern Florida. Some spots could get as much as 10 inches.
Alberto hit the coast around Destin, near Ft. Walton, and unloaded as much as 21 inches of rain in 24 hours after stalling over Georgia, where it killed 31 people, damaged thousands of homes and forced 40,000 people to flee.
Beryl developed into a tropical storm around midday Monday after its winds had reached the threshold of 39 m.p.h. By late Monday, Beryl was just east of Panama City, with maximum winds of 50 to 60 m.p.h.
The storm had stalled but was expected to move northeast at 3 m.p.h. until midday today, a course that would take it into southern Georgia.
“Who knows what’s next?” said Melodie Holton, wife of Mitchell County, Ga., cattleman Lane Holton. They lost about $500,000 when their fields and pastures flooded in July. “A lot of the floodwater is still here,” she said. “It wouldn’t take much to bring it up again.”