The outer bands of Tropical Storm Beryl entered northeast Florida beaches with rain and wind Sunday afternoon as the rare, early season system appears determined to wash out Memorial Day activities.
By 5 p.m. Sunday, the storm's sustained winds had increased to 65 mph, with gusts as much as 70 mph, as it churns about 80 miles east of Jacksonville. It continues moving to the west at 10 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Based on the latest models, Beryl is expected to make landfall near the Florida-Georgia line just after midnight with up to 45 mph winds and heavy downpours.
"That's actually good news for Jacksonville, since the winds south of the center may only be 20 mph -- but bad news for St. Marys, Brunswick and St. Simons Island, which will get the brunt of the storm," Channel 4 meteorologist Rebecca Barry said.
Since the outer bands reach 90 miles from the storm's center, the first rainfall and winds gusts reached area beaches by mid-afternoon.
"The worst of our weather will be tonight -- from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. Monday," Channel 4's chief meteorologist John Gaughan said. "There will be isolated power outages and flooding, but the flooding potential will come after Beryl has moved onshore and weakened: Monday through Wednesday."
Surf across the area is already rough, with riptides that required several water rescues at area beaches on Saturday.
“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.
Rainfall of 3 to 6 inches is possible in tropical downpours late Sunday into Monday, but the rain could continue to fall through midweek as the storm is expected to stall over north central Florida, then head to the northeast, crossing southeast Georgia.
Tropical storm warnings were in effect for coastal counties from Volusia north into South Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Most inland counties in Channel 4's viewing are are under tropical storm watches.
Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown announced Sunday he was declaring a state of emergency -- mostly procedural to ensure an expedited chain of command and adequate funding. The city has also suspended all water activities at pools and beaches and closed Hanna and Huguenot parks until the storm passed.
Sunday's outdoor events of the jazz festival were canceled and Monday morning's Memorial Day ceremony was postponed until a later date.
Brown said the Emergency Operations Center was activated and public works and JEA employees were making preparations for storm conditions.
The city opened a special needs shelter at the Legends Center located at Soutel and Moncrief in Northwest Jacksonville at noon Sunday. Anyone who is electricity and oxygen dependent should use this shelter in the event of a power outage or flooding.
Garbage, yard waste and recycling collection in Jacksonville has been canceled for Monday.
St. Johns County's emergency managers were also monitoring the storm. Additional Fire-Rescue staff was scheduled on Sunday and Monday shifts and area beaches were closed.
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.
Nassau County was also monitoring wind speeds on bridges, but did not expect any closures. The county closed its beaches. 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.