Storm threatens big US beach weekend

MIAMI - Subtropical storm Beryl picked up some speed early Sunday as it headed for the southeastern US coast, threatening to put a damper on Memorial Day plans for hordes of American beachgoers.

Beryl formed late Friday in the Atlantic off the coast of South Carolina as rains generated by Bud - once a hurricane - pelted Mexico's Pacific coast.

As Mexican authorities breathed a sigh of relief, several southeastern US states braced for foul weather Sunday on the holiday weekend that traditionally marks the start of the US summer vacation season.

Memorial Day honors soldiers fallen in US wars, but many Americans skip the parades and stream to the Atlantic beaches for the three-day weekend in search of sun and sand.

Tropical storm warnings were in effect from northern Florida to South Carolina, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.

Early Sunday, Beryl was about 175 miles (280 kilometers) southeast of Savannah, Georgia gaining some strength with top winds of 50 miles (85 kilometers) per hour.

It was moving in a southwestern direction at 10 miles (17 kilometers) an hour, up from seven miles (11 kilometers) per hour just late Saturday.

"On the forecast track, the center of Beryl is expected to approach the coast within the warning area today and make landfall tonight or early Monday," the storm center said, adding the storm was not expected to change much in strength during the next day or two as its center remained over water.

Beryl was expected to dump three to six inches (eight to 15 centimeters) of rain along the coast from northern Florida to southeastern North Carolina.

Meanwhile, Bud practically dissipated over the weekend. All coastal watches and warnings were discontinued.

Emergency officials had previously alerted residents and prepared shelters as Bud - which briefly intensified to a category three hurricane on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale - made its approach.

Bud was expected to dump a total of six to 10 inches of rain on the southwestern Mexican coastal states of Michoacan, Colima, Jalisco and southern Nayarit, the NHC said.

The Mexican Meteorological Service has forecast 23 tropical storms of various levels of intensity for the 2012 hurricane season. Ten of them are expected in the Atlantic Ocean and 13 in the Pacific.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has meanwhile predicted a "near-normal" Atlantic hurricane season is likely.

The Atlantic hurricane region includes the northern Atlantic, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

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