Beta weakens to tropical depression, stalls over Texas coast


Beta weakens to tropical depression, stalls over Texas coast

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

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TEXAS, United States (AP) — Beta weakened to a tropical depression yesterday as it parked itself over the Texas coast, raising concerns of extensive flooding in Houston and areas farther inland.

Beta made landfall late Monday as a tropical storm just north of Port O'Connor, Texas, and has the distinction of being the first time a storm named for a Greek letter made landfall in the continental United States. Forecasters ran out of traditional storm names last week, forcing the use of the Greek alphabet for only the second time since the 1950s.

By mid-morning yesterday, Beta was 15 miles (25 kilometres) east-north-east of Victoria, Texas, with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph), the US National Hurricane Center said. The storm was moving toward the north-east at two mph (four kilometres) and is expected to stall inland over Texas today.

The National Weather Service said areas south and east of Houston had already seen 10 inches (25 centimetres) or more of rain by midday yesterday because of Beta.

Street flooding was reported in parts of Houston, but there were no reports of buildings being flooded, Mayor Sylvester Turner said late yesterday morning. Turner urged residents to stay home and, if they couldn't, to not drive around the barricades placed throughout the city.

“It's going to be moving very slowly heading east and until it clears and gets on the east side of Houston, we're going to have to deal with these rain bands,” Turner 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.

Beta was expected to eventually move over Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi later in the week, bringing the risk of flash flooding.

Forecasters warned of heavy rainfall on the middle and upper Texas coast, which will cause significant flash flooding. Six to 12 inches of rain (15 to 30 centimetres) was expected, with some isolated areas of up to 20 inches (51 centimetres), forecasters said.

However, 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 centimetres) of rain on Houston, causing $125 billion in damage in Texas. Imelda, which hit south-east Texas last year, was one of the wettest cyclones on record.

Governor Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 29 Texas counties on Monday, ahead of Beta's arrival.

Beta is forecast to dump heavy rain on the south-western corner of Louisiana three weeks after the same area got pounded by Hurricane Laura. The rainfall and storm surge prompted Louisiana Governor 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 per cent 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.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Teddy continued its path toward Canada, with a predicted landfall in Nova Scotia early today before moving into Newfoundland in the night, forecasters said. The large and powerful storm was causing dangerous rip currents along the US East Coast, and tropical storm conditions were expected to begin in Nova Scotia by last night, the hurricane centre said.

Teddy was about 345 miles (555 kilometres) south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Tuesday morning with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph). Teddy was expected to weaken later by today but forecasters said it would likely be a strong, post-tropical cyclone when it moves in and over Nova Scotia.

Paulette, which made landfall last week in Bermuda as a hurricane, has regenerated near the Azores but was weakening on Tuesday, the hurricane center said. Now a tropical storm, Paulette was expected to become a post-tropical remnant low in the next day or so.

The National Weather Service said on Twitter: “Because 2020, we now have Zombie Tropical Storms. Welcome back to the land of the living, Tropical Storm Paulette.”

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