The chances of Beta becoming a hurricane is decreasing, but it could be near hurricane strength as it approaches the Texas coast.
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Tropical Storm Beta was taking aim Sunday at the Gulf Coast of Texas, threatening to pound parts the region with damaging storm surge and drenching rains as the 2020 hurricane season continued to batter the region and the record books.
Beta already has made history as the earliest 23rd-named tropical storm in the Atlantic, replacing Alpha, nearly 15 years ago. Alpha, which formed on Oct. 22, 2005, was the first-ever storm to be assigned a Greek letter.
Beta, with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph, was about 180 miles southeast of Galveston, Texas, Sunday morning. It was expected to make landfall Monday or early Tuesday between Corpus Christi and Galveston, AccuWeather forecast.
It would be the ninth system to make landfall in the United States this season, tying a record set more than 100 years ago. Authorities worry residents have become storm-fatigued and might react too casually to Beta’s potential since hurricane status is not likely.
“Please follow the weather forecasts over the next several days,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner pleaded on social media. “We are still in the hurricane season.”
In Corpus Christi, officials ran out of sand bags at both of its distribution locations late Saturday. The city said it handed out nearly 7,000 free sandbags to residents prepping for the storm.
In Galveston, voluntary evacuation orders were issued for some areas and ferry service was suspended. Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said residents who stay should be prepared to survive for three or four days without power.
Beta’s slow advancement – it was moving at just 3 mph Sunday morning – follows a recurring theme in storms this season: slow movers that can stall over an area and dump a foot or more of rain. When Hurricane Sally made landfall along the Alabama-Florida border on Wednesday, some areas were hit with 30 inches of rain before the storm meandered north.
Even if Beta fails to make landfall, days of heavy rainfall and flooding are likely, even well away from the center of the storm, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.
“The slow movement of the system has raised alarms among AccuWeather forecasters,” Sosnowski said, citing Hurricane Harvey, which blasted parts of the region with up to 5 feet of rain in 2017. “Even though this system will not reach the strength of Harvey, it will have the resources to produce torrential rainfall.”
Flash and urban flooding is likely, the weather service said.
Forecasters also were watching Hurricane Teddy, with maximum sustained winds at 105 mph, located 320 miles south-southeast of Bermuda. Swells from Teddy were affecting most of the U.S. East Coast with life-threatening surf and rip current conditions in some areas.
For only the second time in history, the National Hurricane Center moved into the Greek alphabet for storm names. All 21 storm names pre-approved for the season by the World Meteorological Organization have been used. The 2005 hurricane season was the only other time the Greek alphabet has been brought out, and there were six: Tropical Storm Alpha, Hurricane Beta, Tropical Storm Gamma, Tropical Storm Delta, Hurricane Epsilon and Tropical Storm Zeta.
Bacon reported from Arlington, Va. Contributing: Joe Jacquez, Corpus Christi Caller Times; Rachael Thomas, Florida Today
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