Tropical Storm Beta churns slowly toward Texas and Louisiana

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Tropical Storm Beta churns slowly toward Texas and Louisiana

Sunday, September 20, 2020

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HOUSTON, Texas (AP) — Tropical Storm Beta trudged toward the coasts of Texas and Louisiana on Sunday, threatening to bring more rain, wind and stress to a part of the country that has already been drenched and battered during this year's unusually busy hurricane season.

While Beta could bring up to 20 inches (51 centimetres) of rain to some areas of Texas and Louisiana over the next several days, it was no longer expected to reach hurricane intensity, the National Weather Service said Sunday. Beta was set to make landfall along Texas' central or upper Gulf Coast late Monday or early Tuesday, with rainfall as its biggest threat. It was then expected to move northeastward along the coast and head into Louisiana sometime mid-week.

Forecasters said Beta was not expected to bring the same amount of rainfall that Texas experienced during eitherHurricane Harveyin 2017 or Tropical Storm Imelda last year. Harvey dumped more than 50 inches (127 centimetres) of rain on Houston and caused US$125 billion in damage in Texas.Imelda, which hit Southeast Texas, was one of the wettest cyclones on record.

The first rain bands from Beta reached the Texas coast on Sunday, but the heaviest rain wasn't expected to arrive until Monday into Tuesday.

In low-lyingGalveston, which has seen more than its share of tropical weather over the years, officials didn't expect to issue a mandatory evacuation order but they advised people to have supplies ready in case they have to stay home for several days if roads are flooded. The coastal city about 50 miles (80 kilometres) south of Houston could get up to 15 inches (38 centimetres) of rain.

“We're not incredibly worried,” Galveston resident Nancy Kitcheo said Sunday. Kitcheo, 49, and her family had evacuated last month when forecasts suggestedHurricane Lauracould make landfall near Galveston, but they're planning to buy supplies and wait out Beta. Laura ended up making landfall in neighbouring Louisiana.

Kitcheo, whose home is 18 feet above the ground on stilts, said she expected her street to be impassable as water from rising tides was already flooding neighbouring roadways on Sunday.

“This has definitely been more stressful, this hurricane season," she said.

Galveston, which has about 50,000 residents, was the site of the deadliest hurricane in US history, a 1900 storm that killed an estimated 6,000 people. The city was also hit hard in 2008 by Hurricane Ike, which caused about US$30 billion in damage. Kitcheo's previous home was heavily damaged during Ike and had to be torn down.

Beta was churning slowly through the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday morning about 140 miles (225 kilometres) southeast of Galveston, the US National Hurricane Center said. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph) and was moving west-northwest at 5 mph (8 kph).

In Victoria County, about 120 miles southwest of Houston, officials asked residents to prepare for up to 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38 centimetres) of rain.

“As with any event, panic is never helpful or necessary, but preparation is, and now is the time to finalize those plans,” said County Judge Ben Zeller, the top elected official in Victoria County.

Beta is forecast to dump heavy rain on the southwestern corner of Louisiana three weeks after the same area got pounded by Hurricane Laura. More than 41,000 homes and businesses remain without electricity, and Beta could add to that figure by toppling trees that were left leaning by the previous storm, said meteorologist Donald Jones of the National Weather Service office in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Storm debris from Laura clogging draining ditches in hard-hit areas such as Lake Charles could increase the threat of flooding.


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