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Tropical storm Beryl gives South hurricane prep test

Tropical storm Beryl dumped much needed rain in the South, and caused some power outages. Jacksonville, Fla. officials say Beryl was a 'dry run' for the hurricane season which starts Friday.

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The storm wrecked much of Connolly's trip. She skipped a graduation ceremony because powerful winds kept her and her daughters from venturing past the beach boardwalk when the storm approached Sunday. She also postponed their drive home Monday as Beryl, downgraded to a tropical depression, continued to dump rain near the Georgia-Florida state line.

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"It definitely changed our vacation to unfortunate circumstances that we're not happy with. But you just have to live with it," said Connolly, who at least found the irony of her hometown's name "pretty funny."

Beach lifeguards turned swimmers away from the ocean because of dangerous rip currents from Jacksonville to Tybee Island, Georgia's largest public beach 140 miles to the north. Skip Sasser, who oversees the island's lifeguards as its fire chief, said beach traffic was unusually thin for a holiday. The ocean was declared off-limits to swimmers for a second day in a row.

"It's been raining intermittently, so it's chased a lot of them off," Sasser said. "There was a lot of traffic this morning heading westbound out of Tybee."

Veterans groups, meanwhile, carried out outdoor Memorial Day ceremonies despite the grim forecast.

At Savannah's historic Bonaventure Cemetery — made famous by the book, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" — American Legion members worked through a downpour to make sure its plot for veterans had a small American flag planted by each headstone.

"When we were setting up, I had a different shirt on and I got soaked to the skin. My socks and my underwear probably are, too," said Jim Grismer, commander of American Legion Post 135 in Savannah. "I had so many people trying to talk me into moving it inside. But I said then you can't have the live firing salute and the flag raising."

Aside from ruining holiday plans, the rain was welcome on the Georgia coast for bringing some relief from persistent drought. According to the state climatologist's office, as of May 1, rainfall in Savannah was 15 inches below normal for the past 12 months.

Emergency officials said minor flooding was reported near the coast, but the ground was quickly soaking up the water. And the winds had died down considerably.

"We've needed it for a long time," said Ray Parker, emergency management director for coastal McIntosh County south of Savannah, who said the worst damage came by trees falling on two homes overnight. "We were lucky that we didn't get 3 to 4 inches in 30 minutes. Most of it soaked right in before it had a chance to run off. It fell on an empty sponge."

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said much progress was made repairing Beryl's damage, including removing trees and restoring power to homes and businesses.

"We're very fortunate this did not become a hurricane," he said. "If it had been a couple of months later, we could have had a Category 3 hurricane."

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Associated Press writers Jennifer Kay in Miami and Kate Brumback in Atlanta contributed to this report.

RECOMMENDED: Are you ready for a hurricane? Five tips.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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