Despite downgrade, Beryl soaks Memorial Day

Posted May 28, 2012, at 8:57 p.m.

SAVANNAH, Ga. — While it left little damage after sweeping ashore with 70 mph winds around midnight Sunday at Jacksonville, Fla., Tropical Storm Beryl disrupted plenty of people.

Beach trips, backyard barbecues and graveside Memorial Day observances got a good soaking in southeastern Georgia and northern Florida.

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.

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

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.

The rainfall stopped in Savannah and other northern parts of the Georgia coast Monday afternoon, but more was expected through Tuesday.

Beryl was expected to bring 4 to 8 inches of rain to parts, with some areas getting as much as a foot. Forecasters said the storm surge and high tide could bring 2 to 4 feet of flooding in northeastern Florida and Georgia, and 1 to 2 feet in southern South Carolina.

Crash, attack kill 3 NATO troops in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — A helicopter crash killed two NATO service members in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, and a third died in an insurgent attack in the south, the U.S.-led coalition said.

The deaths raised the number of NATO troops who have been killed in Afghanistan this year to 172. NATO is aiming to withdraw its combat forces by the end of 2014 and turn security responsibility over to the Afghans.

Authorities were investigating the cause of the crash, but initial reports indicate there was no enemy activity in the area at the time the helicopter went down, the coalition said.

No further details about the crash in the east or the insurgent attack in the south were released.

A second coalition aircraft crashed Monday in eastern Afghanistan. No fatalities were reported. The coalition said this incident was not related to the helicopter crash, which also occurred in the east.

Officials are trying to determine why the aircraft went down. Initial reports indicate there was no enemy activity in the area. There were no reports of civilians being harmed or property damaged because of the crash. The coalition transported the aircraft’s crew and passengers to a nearby base for evaluation.

Pope’s butler vows to help Vatican scandal probe

VATICAN CITY — The biggest scandal to rock the Vatican in decades widened Monday with the pope’s butler, arrested for allegedly having confidential documents in his home, agreeing to cooperate with investigators — raising the specter that higher-ranking ecclesial heads may soon roll.

Few believe butler Paolo Gabriele worked alone to leak dozens of documents shedding light on power struggles, corruption and intrigue inside the highest levels of the Catholic Church. The leaks have tormented the Vatican for months and painted a picture of a church hierarchy in utter disarray.

Gabriele, the pope’s personal butler since 2006, was arrested Wednesday evening after Holy See documents were found inside his Vatican City apartment, adding an unfathomable Hollywood twist to the already sordid Vatileaks scandal. He remains in custody in a Vatican detention facility, accused of theft, and has met with his wife and lawyers.

Italian media reported Monday that a cardinal is suspected of playing a major role in the scandal. However, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, denied the reports categorically. He said many Vatican officials were being questioned but insisted “there is no cardinal under suspicion.”

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