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Beryl's waves sweep away, drown man in Florida

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:25 PM EDT, Tue May 29, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The body of an 18-year-old man who had gone into the water was found Tuesday
  • Forecasters say dangerous rip currents are still possible from Florida to the Carolinas
  • The National Hurricane Center says Beryl "could regain tropical storm status" Wednesday
  • The storm system is forecast to be near the Carolina coast on Wednesday

(CNN) -- Tropical Depression Beryl claimed the life of a teenager who ventured into the Atlantic Ocean, a Florida beach patrol official said Tuesday.

The 18-year-old man and a friend were in 5 to 6 feet of water about 6 p.m. Monday when a wave knocked him off his feet and swept him away, Volusia County Beach Patrol Capt. Tammy Marris said.

The friend flagged down rescue workers, but a search late Monday was unsuccessful. The body of the man, whose name was not released, washed ashore about 6 a.m. Tuesday some six miles north of where he went under, Marris said.

Volusia County Beach Patrol workers rescued approximately 170 swimmers from the surf over the Memorial Day weekend, Marris said.

The National Weather Service had warned of dangerous rip currents along the coast from Florida up into the Carolinas as Beryl passed. The system came ashore early Monday as a tropical storm near Jacksonville Beach, Florida, and was downgraded to a tropical depression around midday.

After dumping more than a foot of rain in at least one location, Beryl continued to soak coastal areas on Tuesday, prompting flood watches and warnings from Florida to North Carolina.

Through Tuesday morning, the town of Midway, Florida, about 12 miles west of Tallahassee, had received a total of 12.65 inches of rain from Beryl, according to the National Weather Service.

Other notable storm rainfall totals included more than 8 inches in Cooks Hammock, Florida, about 73 miles northwest of Gainesville; and 6 inches in Branford and Arlington, Florida. The 3.25 inches measured in Gainesville broke a daily record, the weather service said.

As of about 5 p.m. Tuesday, the center of Beryl was about 40 miles north of Waycross, Georgia, and about 85 miles west-southwest of Savannah. Its maximum sustained winds were around 30 mph with higher gusts.

Tropical Depression Beryl is still spinning.
CNN Explains: Tropical cyclones

Beryl was moving northeast at about 8 mph, and was expected to be near the coast of South Carolina by Wednesday morning and near the coast of North Carolina by Wednesday afternoon.

"Beryl could regain tropical storm status on Wednesday as it moves along the coastline," the National Hurricane Center said.

The storm is expected to produce 3 to 6 inches of rain in the eastern Carolinas, with isolated amounts up to 8 inches, the hurricane center said. In eastern Georgia and northern Florida, another 1 to 3 inches is likely, with the total rainfall from the storm running as high as 15 inches in spots, the forecasters said.

Isolated tornadoes are possible in the eastern Carolinas, and dangerous rip currents remained likely from northeastern Florida to North Carolina, the hurricane center said.

Flash flood and flood watches were posted on the South Carolina and North Carolina coasts. Flood warnings, watches and advisories were dropped Tuesday afternoon for parts of Florida and Georgia.

However, the rain is much-needed in the region. According to the University of Nebraska Lincoln, which tracks drought nationwide, areas of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina are under drought conditions ranging from "severe" to "exceptional."

"We welcome the rain," said Lisa Janak Newman, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

No counties had requested assistance or reported damage from Beryl, she said: "It hasn't caused too many problems so far."

In Jacksonville, Florida, the Matthews Bridge, which connects the city with the suburb of Arlington, remained closed Tuesday, according to CNN affiliate WJXT.

Susan Newton, who delivers newspapers in Jacksonville's Riverside area, told WJXT that she was surprised that some dismissed Beryl, recounting her efforts battling high water.

"I've been through four hurricanes out here in the 23 years I've done this," she said. "(I've) never seen anything like this, ever, and it was only a tropical storm. I was so surprised they were like, 'Oh, it's not a big deal.' It was a big deal."

CNN's John Branch, Ashley Hayes and Dave Alsup contributed to this report.

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