By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Beryl cut a soggy path across the U.S. southeast on Monday after swirling ashore in Florida at near hurricane strength.
The second named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season lashed the East Coast from north Florida to southern parts of North Carolina, and created a risk of flooding inland, even after it was downgraded to a tropical depression late Monday morning.
"The main concern with slow moving Beryl continues to be very heavy rains which are expected to occur from northern Florida to southeastern North Carolina during the next day or two," the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in an advisory late Monday afternoon.
At 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT), Beryl's top sustained winds had dropped to 30 miles per hour and its center was 150 miles southwest of Savannah, Georgia.
Little change in strength was expected over the next 48 hours. But the storm, targeting parts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, was forecast to dump as much as 4 to 8 inches of rain, in some areas, the hurricane center said.
It said some locations could be hit with as much as 12 inches of rain as the storm moved north-northwest at 5 miles per hour.
Beryl peaked near hurricane strength as it made landfall shortly after midnight near Jacksonville Beach, Florida, packing winds of 70 mph. That was just shy of the 74 mph threshold that would have made it a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale.
Computer forecast models show Beryl moving on an eventual path back out over the Atlantic, posing no threat to U.S. oil and gas installations in the Gulf of Mexico.
Beryl downed trees and caused power outages as it tore across parts of northeast Florida after making landfall, and it disrupted Memorial Day plans in many areas. But no storm-related deaths or serious injuries had been confirmed by late Monday afternoon.
Beryl formed off the South Carolina coast late on Friday as a subtropical storm, a reference to the storm's structure. Subtropical storms usually have a broader wind field than tropical storms and shower and thunderstorm activity farther removed from the storm's center.
It was reclassified as a tropical storm on Sunday.
Beryl followed the season's first major storm, Tropical Storm Alberto, which was the earliest-forming Atlantic storm since 2003.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to November 30, though it is not unusual for storms to form earlier.
(Additional reporting by Harriet McCleod in Charleston and Tom Brown in Miami; Writing by David Adams; Editing by Tom Brown and Eric Beech)