TS Beta churns slowly toward Texas, Louisiana

Tropical Storm Beta on Sunday was making a slow crawl toward the shores of Texas and Louisiana, stirring worries about heavy rain, flooding and storm surge across the Gulf Coast.

Beta was one of three named storms whirling in the Atlantic basin during an exceptionally busy hurricane season. If the system makes landfall in Texas — which forecasters predict it will sometime on Monday — it would be the ninth named storm to make landfall in the continental U.S. in 2020. That would tie a record set in 1916, according to Colorado State hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

Coastal communities began preparing for Beta over the weekend, with the Texas city of Galveston and surrounding Galveston County issuing voluntary evacuation orders on Saturday. Seabrook, north of Galveston, issued its own order.

Craig Brown, the mayor pro tem of Galveston, said in a statement that high tides and up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of expected rainfall would leave roads impassable, especially in the west end and low-lying areas of the city.

Judge Mark Henry, the top elected official for Galveston County, said Saturday that a mandatory evacuation order isn't expected, but that he was concerned about the damage that storm surge could cause and suggested that people find a safer place to wait out the storm, if possible.

“If you can survive in your home for three or four days without power and electricity, which we’re not even sure that’s going to happen, you’re OK,” Henry said. “If it’s uncomfortable or you need life support equipment, maybe go somewhere else.”

Beta was churning slowly through the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday morning about 200 miles (320 kilometers) southeast of Galveston, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph) and was moving west-northwest at 3 mph (6 kph).

Little change in strength was expected as the system approached Texas, forecasters said. Earlier predictions showed Beta could reach hurricane strength before making landfall.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for a stretch of coastline stretching from Port Aransas, about 165 miles (265 kilometers southwest of Galveston, to Morgan City, Louisiana, 80 miles (128 kilometers) west of New Orleans. A hurricane watch, a tropical storm watch and a storm surge watch were all discontinued Sunday morning.

“A lot of people have been saying, ‘Is this going to be like Harvey? Is this going to be like Imelda?'" Jones said. “We’re not talking about rainfall totals yet that are on the orders of magnitude that we saw with that.” Imelda, which struck southeastern Texas in 2019, was

However, if the storm ends up moving a bit slower than what’s being forecast now, rainfall totals could exceed 20 inches, Jones said.

“Harvey was a very specific and unique event, but we are talking about the same idea in terms of very heavy, heavy rainfall," he said.

Forecasters were predicting up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) of storm surge from Port Aransas to the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge near Lake Charles. Strong winds, and life-threatening surf and rip current conditions were also expected.

Forecasters

Meanwhile, Hurricane Teddy remained a powerful hurricane Sunday, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph) and moving west-northwest at 12 mph (19 kph). Teddy was centered 320 miles (515 kilometers) south-southeast of Bermuda less than a week after

A tropical storm warning was in effect for Bermuda. Large swells from Teddy were affecting the Lesser Antilles, the Greater Antilles, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the U.S. East Coast and Atlantic Canada, forecasters said.

Tropical Storm Wilfred was still at sea but was expected to dissipate by Tuesday.

The Salvation Army was distributing roughly 10,000 meals Saturday at 10 locations throughout the Panhandle.