Here comes Beryl

Strong winds broke Ameen Khan umbrella but they didn't break his concentrations as he reads on the Isle of Palms on Sunday, May 27, 2012. The 9-year-old was at the beach with his father Ahsan Khan of Mount Pleasant. (Tyrone Walker/postandcourier.com)

Tropical Storm Beryl cast off its calm demeanor and showed its teeth to Charleston on Sunday, stirring up waves that drove swimmers from the surf at a local beach and nearly capsizing a boat in Charleston Harbor.

The storm was expected to be much tamer today as far as Charleston is concerned, causing less wind and waves. But there’s also more of a chance of rain at least somewhere in the Lowcountry.

Winds gusted up to 44 mph on the Ravenel Bridge on Sunday afternoon and often reached 35 mph on the beaches, according to Rich Thacker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Charleston office. Winds should be much lighter today, with gusts below 25 mph and waves in the harbor only 1 to 2 feet.

“We should not see quite the gusting,” he said. “But it’s still a day for caution.”

The chance of rain is 50 percent today, and Thacker said he would be surprised if it didn’t rain at least somewhere in the Lowcountry.

Beryl caused trouble in the waters around Charleston on Sunday. Lifeguards ordered swimmers out of the water at Folly Beach about 1:30 p.m. after a swimmer was reported missing in the choppy waves near the pier. A Coast Guard rescue helicopter joined Public Safety rescue crew members on personal watercrafts while thousands watched from shore. The helicopter left after about an hour, and the search was called off about 5 p.m. It started when someone said a man went out past the breakers and didn’t return, but no one was officially reported missing, according to Mayor Tim Goodwin.

In Charleston Harbor, two Coast Guard ships rescued a boat that was filling with water about noon Sunday. Rescue crews reported 4-foot waves at the time, and the Coast Guard blamed them on Beryl. Three boaters and a dog were rescued, and the boat was towed back to shore.

Sunday’s high winds over the ocean made for an uncomfortable day on local beaches, with winds whipping the sand around and stinging the skin.

“It just beat us to death,” said Sandy Reddy of Summerville as she left the Isle of Palms County Park late Sunday afternoon.

Lifeguards put up yellow caution flags and cut the swimming area in half because of the choppy waves. Even though it was mostly sunny, Sunday’s crowds were half that of a typical holiday weekend, according to Cole Thomas, manager of Isle of Palms County Park.

Beryl was expected to make landfill in Florida Sunday night, then bounce back up the coast, passing by Charleston again Tuesday with a chance of some heavier rain.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553. Staff reporter Prentiss Findlay contributed to this report.