(Bloomberg) – Beta, a slow-onset tropical storm, will bring flood rains to Texas and Louisiana as well as rake offshore energy fields with high winds, but may not reach hurricane strength.
Beta winds are likely to remain at 60 miles per hour as they approach the Texas coast where there could be between 8 and 12 inches of rain, including in flood-prone Houston, with some areas up to 20 inches, the US National Hurricane Center said in a Sunday notice.
The storm is expected to strike near Corpus Christi. Category 1 Hanna also hit south Texas this year, the first hurricane to make landfall in Lone Star state since Harvey in 2017, and the first to strike in July since Dolly in 2008.
“Beta’s expected idle will produce a long-lasting rain event from the central Texas coast to southern Louisiana,” wrote John Cangialosi, a forecaster at the center of the hurricanes. “Flash, urban and river floods are likely.
A tropical storm warning has been issued along the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, and a storm surge of up to 4 feet is possible in many areas, including Galveston Bay. Initial forecasts predicted Beta to become a hurricane, but wind shear tearing its structure and dry air nearby robbed it of its strength, Cangialosi wrote.
A flash flood watch has been issued for Houston and its immediate area, the National Weather Service has said. The rains will put lives and structures at risk.
Beta is the 23rd Atlantic storm for 2020 to date, the second most active season on record dating back to 1851. So many storms have formed that the hurricane center has used all the names on its official list and started to designate new storms with the letters Greek.
Tropical Storm Alpha formed off Portugal on Friday, causing high winds that briefly suspended play in a golf tournament there, and has since collapsed.
The summer of trouble
If Beta lands in Texas, it would be the ninth storm to hit the United States this year, tying a record set in 1916, said Phil Klotzbach, senior author of the seasonal forecast at Colorado State University.
The summer of 2020 brought a string of natural disasters in the United States, from hurricanes and tropical storms to a derecho that left shipwrecks from Iowa to Indiana, to fires in the West that killed dozens of people. and burned millions of acres.
In the Gulf, nearly 9.7% of off-shore oil production and 7.7% of remains closed following Hurricane Sally, which hit Alabama last week, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement . More than 3.5% of offshore platforms remain evacuated.
Evacuations and closures could increase as Beta begins to move closer to the region, said Jim Rouiller, chief meteorologist at Energy Weather Group. Houston’s oil refineries in Texas City and Galveston will also be at risk for outages due to flooding rains, potential storm surges and winds. The Houston Ship Channel was closed before the storm.
In addition to Beta, Tropical Storm Wilfred and Hurricane Teddy are unfolding in the central Atlantic. While Wilfred isn’t a threat, Teddy could sweep near Bermuda and maybe even hit Nova Scotia or Newfoundland next week.
(Updates with Gulf Oil Stops, Houston Ship Channel from 11th paragraph.)
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