Tropical Storm Beryl made history when it blew through Jacksonville overnight, leaving 350 trees and scores of power lines down and dozens of streets flooded.
It was the strongest tropical storm to ever make landfall before the June 1 official start of the hurricane season and the only tropical storm or hurricane to come ashore in Duval County coming out of the east.
"This was trying to become a hurricane," Channel 4 chief meteorologist John Gaughan said, noting the storm's winds increased from 50 mph to 70 mph in the 12 hours before coming ashore just after midnight.
Ten hours after Beryl sloshed ashore, its winds dropped to 35 mph as it neared Lake City and was downgraded to a depression. All coastal tropical warnings were dropped at 11 a.m., but flood watches continued in force for across most of northeast Florida and southeast Georgia.
"Just because it's weakening doesn't mean we're done with it yet," said Channel 4 meteorlogist Richard Nunn, who has tracked thunderstorms and two brief tornado warnings Monday morning. "There's still more rain coming and the potential for severe weather."
The National Hurricane Center reported that the center of Beryl made landfall near Jacksonville Beach at around 12:10 a.m., with near-hurricane-strength winds of 70 mph.
By 11 a.m. Monday, the NHC update showed the center of Beryl was in Columbia County -- about 60 miles west-northwest of Jacksonville -- and the storm was downgraded to a tropical depression. Forward movement was down to 6 mph to the west-northwest.
The storm is forecast to turn north on a path into south Georgia Tuesday, then turn to the northeast and head into South Carolina by Wednesday.
Beryl was expected to bring 4 inches of rain to parts of the area, with some areas getting even more. (See National Weather Service rainfall accumulation map, right)
Because the outer bands reached 90 miles from the storm's center, the first rainfall and winds gusts reached area beaches mid-afternoon Sunday. Heavy rains began about 8 p.m. along the coast and reached inland areas before midnight.
The highest wind gusts in the area Sunday night were 64 mph at NAS Jacksonville and 62 mph at Mayport Naval Station.
Brown was joined by state and national elected leaders Monday afternoon. After a tour of Jacksonville EOC and a first-hand look at some flooding and tree damage in Riverside and Avondale, they praised the city's response to an early-season storm.
"If had been a couple months later, it could have been a Category 3 hurricane," Gov. Rick Scott said.
"I hope this is not a sign of things to come," Senator Bill Nelson said. "That you would have one come straight into Jacksonville is either a troubling sign or an unusual sign."
The Mathews and Wonderwood bridges were closed die to high winds before the storm made landfall. While Wonderwood reopened after a fallen light pole was fixed, the Mathews Bridge remains closed.
At 3:30 p.m. Monday, the JEA reported more than 22,000 customers were still without power. Less then 100 customers of Clay Electric and Florida Power and Light customers in northeast Florida reported outages.
Surf across the area remained rough. Most area beaches were closed to swimmers on Sunday and remain closed Monday.
“In addition to the potential for dangerous rip currents, high waves up to 4 to 6 feet could cause moderate beach erosion and minor coastal flooding,” state meteorologist Amy Godsey said.
The wind-whipped St. Johns River has spilled over the sea wall in Riverside and Riverside Avenue between Copeland and Barrs was closed due to flooding. Several other streets were blocked, mostly by downed powerlines.
U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw said he had unique perspective on the storm and response because he lives in the neighborhood that was one of the hardest hit by Beryl.
"At 4 o'clock this morning, the river was breaking over the bulkhead and there were actually some chucks of concrete thrown out into the road. Docks were destroyed out here," Crenshaw said. "This could have been a whole lot worse."
Tropical storm warnings for coastal counties from Volusia north into South Carolina were cancelled at 11 a.m., then Beryl was downgraded. Most counties in Channel 4's viewing remained under a flood watch.
Most Memorial Day activities were postponed Monday and Mayor Alvin Brown encouraged people to stay indoors and safe.
Duval County and surrounding counties activated their Emergency Operations Centers. Jacksonville opened a special needs shelter at the Legends Center located at Soutel and Moncrief in Northwest Jacksonville at noon Sunday for anyone who is electricity and oxygen dependent should use this shelter in the event of a power outage or flooding. The American Red Cross said only a handful of people showed up, which they said was good news.
Garbage, yard waste and recycling collection in Jacksonville has been canceled for Monday.
St. Johns County's emergency managers scheduled additional Fire-Rescue staff to deal with any situation that might arise. Garbage pickup will take place. The 2012 Concerts in the Plaza series set for Memorial Day was cancelled.
Nassau County officials said they don't anticipate opening any shelters, but residents who are registered with special medical needs and are dependent on medical devices requiring electricity can call 904-548-4980. It will have regular garbage pickup Monday.
Clay County was staffing its Emergency Operations Center to monitor the storm's progress and react as necessary. Memorial Day Services at Camp Blanding were canceled.
Most incoming and outgoing flights at Jacksonville International Airport were canceled for Sunday night and 12 fights Monday morning were also canceled.
The Coast Guard Captain of the Port of Jacksonville Andy Blomme closed all commercial waterways from Ponce de Leon Inlet in New Smyrna Beach north to Fernandina Beach in preparation for the storm. The ports of Jacksonville and Fernandina are closed to all inbound and outbound traffic. In addition, the Coast Guard reminds all recreational boaters to exercise caution in the severe conditions and avoid being on the water.
"A three-day thunderstorm is what it's probably going to be," said Jay Wiggins, emergency management director for Glynn County, which is about 60 miles south of Savannah and includes Brunswick and St. Simons Island. "Unfortunately, it's going to ruin a lot of Memorial Day plans."
Wiggins said he expects some flooded roadways and scattered power outages, perhaps some minor flooding in waterfront homes, but otherwise little damage. However, he urged beachgoers to beware of dangerous rip currents.
On Cumberland Island, a federally protected wilderness area beloved by hikers and campers, campers were told to leave by 4:45 p.m. before the storm arrives. Superintendent Fred Boyles said he had about 100 campers who had planned to stay overnight Sunday on the island, which is only reachable by boat.
Beryl was upgraded from a subtropical storm to a full tropical storm just before 4 p.m. Sunday. The system is expected to bring winds and rain to the area regardless of its official classification.
"As Tropical Storm Beryl approaches Florida's northeast coast, I urge all Floridians in the affected communities to stay alert and aware," Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement. "Tropical Storm Beryl is expected to bring heavy rain and winds, and it is vital to continue to monitor local news reports and listen to the advice of local emergency management officials."
For more information, residents can call 904-630-CITY or visit its Emergency Preparedness website at www.JaxReady.org.