Storm Beryl Wasn’t Much Help for Southeast Drought

Tropical Depression Beryl’s soaking rains were swallowed up by parched soil in Florida and Georgia and won’t be enough to relieve drought conditions, state climatologists said.

Beryl, 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, with winds of 40 mph, degenerated into a post-tropical cyclone as of 5 p.m. local time today, the National Hurricane Center said in its last advisory on the system. Beryl was moving northeast up the North Carolina coast and will be back in the Atlantic by tomorrow.

“Tomorrow, the sun will come out,” said Dan Kottlowski, lead hurricane forecaster for AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

While the system dropped as much as 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain on parts of Florida after going ashore near Jacksonville on May 28, it won’t slake the state’s parched soil.

“The soils were so dry the rivers and the ground water aren’t responding that much,” said David Zierden, state climatologist based at Florida State University in Tallahassee. “It certainly isn’t enough to bring us out of drought or make up for deficiencies we have been accumulating for two years.”

Beryl’s heaviest rains have been close to the coast and haven’t reached interior regions of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, Kottlowski said.

Dry Southeast

Central and northern Florida, as well as parts of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, are currently listed as having extreme or exceptional drought, the two worst categories on a five-step scale, by the U.S. Drought Monitor in Lincoln, Nebraska.

“The exceptional areas that really needed it didn’t get it,” said Bill Murphey, Georgia’s chief meteorologist and climatologist in Atlanta. “The bottom line is southwest Georgia and around Macon didn’t benefit much from this system.”

When the national drought status is updated tomorrow, Zierden said Florida may improve by one category because of Beryl.

Zierden said the biggest benefits will be for agriculture, as the rains will moisten topsoil and help hay production. He said the rainfall may also help lower the wildfire risk in some areas. Florida is the second-largest orange producer after Brazil.

Kottlowski said the top of Beryl is moving faster than its surface winds, stretching the storm out and tearing at its structure. There’s a slim chance it will regain strength once it gets over the Atlantic, he said.

“Because of the fact it’s strongly tilted, it’s just barely an organized tropical system,” Kottlowski said by telephone before the last NHC advisory on Beryl. “The hurricane center has almost buried the hatchet there and we won’t argue with that.”

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