HOUSTON (AP) — Storm surge and rainfall combined Tuesday to bring more flooding along the Texas coast after Tropical Storm Beta made landfall, threatening areas that have already seen their share of damaging weather during a busy hurricane season.
The storm made landfall late Monday just north of Port O’Connor, Texas. Early Tuesday, Beta was 35 miles (56 kilometers) north northwest of the city with maximum winds of 40 mph (64 kph), the US National Hurricane Center said. The storm was moving toward the northwest near three mph (four kilometers) and is expected to stall inland over Texas.
“We currently have both storm surge and rainfall going on right now,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Amaryllis Cotto in Galveston, Texas.
Cotto said 6-12 inches (15-30 centimeters) of rain has fallen in the area, with isolated amounts of up to 18 inches (45 centimeters). Dangerous flash flooding is expected through Wednesday, Cotto said.
Beta was the ninth named storm that made landfall in the continental US this year. That tied a record set in 1916, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach. It also was the first time a Greek letter named storm made landfall in the continental US Forecasters ran out of traditional storm names on Friday, forcing the use of the Greek alphabet for only the second time since the 1950s.
Beta will move inland over southeastern Texas through Wednesday and then over Louisiana and Mississippi on Wednesday night through Friday, and the biggest unknown from Beta was how much rainfall it could produce. Beta was expected to weaken into a depression, but flash flooding was possible in Arkansas and Mississippi as the system moves farther inland.
Earlier predictions of up to 20 inches (51 centimeters) in some areas were downgraded Monday to up to 15 inches (38 centimeters).
Forecasters and officials reassured residents Beta was not expected to be another Hurricane Harvey or Tropical Storm Imelda. Harvey in 2017 dumped more than 50 inches (127 centimeters) of rain on Houston, causing $125 billion in damage in Texas. Imelda, which hit Southeast Texas last year, was one of the wettest cyclones on record.
Storm surge up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) was forecast from Port Aransas to Sabine Pass in Texas. In Galveston, an island city southeast of Houston, there was already some street flooding Monday from rising tides and part of a popular fishing pier collapsed due to strong waves.
Farther south on the Texas coast, Maria Serrano Culpepper along with her two daughters and dogs left their home in Magnolia Beach near Matagorda Bay on Sunday night.
Culpepper said she didn’t want to be trapped in her home, three blocks from the beach, with wind, rain and possibly no electricity. She and her family evacuated to a friend’s home in nearby Victoria.
Culpepper said her home should be fine as it’s on stilts 13 feet (4 meters) off the ground and was built to withstand strong storms.
“I’m feeling OK now. I had two nights without sleeping because I was worried about (Beta) being a Category 1 hurricane. I calmed down when the storm lost power,” said Culpepper, who works as an engineer at a nearby chemical plant.
On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 29 Texas counties ahead of Beta’s arrival.
Beta is forecast to dump heavy rain on the southwestern corner of Louisiana three weeks after the same area got pounded by Hurricane Laura. The rainfall and storm surge prompted Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards to declare a state of emergency.
In Lake Charles, Mayor Nic Hunter worried about Beta’s rainfall could set back efforts in his Louisiana community to recover after Laura, which damaged about 95% of the city’s 30,000 structures. Hunter said the worry of another storm was “an emotional and mental toll for a lot of our citizens.”
Parts of the Alabama coast and Florida Panhandle were still reeling from Hurricane Sally, which roared ashore Wednesday, causing at least two deaths. Two Boston-based disaster modeling firms figured Sally caused about $2 billion in privately insured losses from wind and storm surge. Karen Clark & Company estimated losses at $2 billion, while AIR Worldwide said they were between $1 and $3 billion. The estimates don’t include uninsured losses, the National Flood Insurance Program claims or damage to offshore property, like oil rigs.
Hurricane Teddy was about 295 miles (475 kilometers) northeast of Bermuda Monday night as it heads toward Nova Scotia. It had maximum sustained winds of 100 mph (160 kph) while moving north at 25 mph (40 kph) and away from the wealthy British territory, according to the US National Hurricane Center in Miami. It was expected to weaken and become a strong post-tropical cyclone before reaching Nova Scotia on Wednesday.
The government closed all air and sea ports, schools and government offices for the second time in a week. Hurricane Paulette made landfall in Bermuda on Sept. 14, knocking down trees and leaving thousands without power.
Associated Press reporters Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland, and Janet McConnaughey and Rebecca Santana in New Orleans and Julie Walker in New York City contributed to this report.
Image: A flooded streets in Rockport, Texas, as Tropical Storm Beta approaches on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020. (Courtney Sacco/Corpus Christi Caller-Times via AP)