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Beta becomes 9th landfall storm of 2020 in a record-shattering season

Though small and slow moving, Beta was already creating flooding along the Texas coast and more is expected.
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Tropical Storm Beta became the ninth named storm to hit the mainland United States when its center came ashore on the Texas Gulf Coast on Monday night.

The last time this many named storms hit the mainland U.S. in a single season, Europe was embroiled in World War I, the U.S. president was Woodrow Wilson and the year was 1916.

The center of Beta crossed the Texas coast near the southern end of Matagorda Peninsula, southwest of Houston near Port O'Connor, around 10 p.m. (11 p.m. ET), the National Hurricane Center said. It had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph.

Streets were reported to have flooded in parts of Houston and League City as the storm approached. The storm is expected to create a" long-duration rainfall event" from the middle coast of Texas to southwestern Louisiana, forecasters said.

Houston's fire chief tweeted that the fire department had completed 20 evacuations from flooded vehicles. "We preach this often. DON’T DRIVE THROUGH FLOODED STREETS!" Fire Chief Samuel Peña wrote, adding, "I promise the water will win."

Overnight, Beta brought 3 to 4 feet of storm surge during high tide to the Galveston area down to San Luis Pass.

When Beta made landfall it became the ninth landfalling named storm on the mainland U.S. this year, tying that 104-year-old record.

By early Tuesday, storm surge warnings were discontinued for a stretch between Port Aransas, to Sargent, Texas.

But storm surge warnings remained from Sargent to Sabine Pass, including Galveston Bay, the hurricane center said. Tropical storm warnings were in effect from Port Aransas to Morgan City in Louisiana. The storm is forecast to move along the southeastern Texas coast Tuesday and Wednesday.

Forecasters have warned Beta's impact will be found beyond the center of the storm, as heavy rain was forecast to fall well away from the center across portions of Louisiana including New Orleans to Lafayette and Lake Charles where training rain bands could cause big rain totals and flash flood concerns.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday issued a disaster declaration for 29 counties, and the governor urged residents to stay vigilant and take precautions. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on Monday also declared a state of emergency in advance of the storm. The orders aid in state assistance.

Jeff Linder, meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District, tweeted Monday evening that the southern parts of the county and parts of northern Galveston and Brazoria counties saw around 1 to 2 inches of rain over three hours, and 3 to 4 inches of rain over the last 12 hours.

In this record-tying season, some communities are still reeling from the impact of other named storms. It has been nearly a month since Hurricane Laura made landfall on the Louisiana coast, but many are still without power. Three to 6 inches of rain could fall across hard-hit areas like Lake Charles through Wednesday.

Storm surge and heavy rain were forecast to be the greatest risks associated with Beta. The highest storm surge of 2 to 4 feet was forecast in Texas from Sargent to Sabine Pass, which includes Galveston Bay.

Here is a list of the surge forecasts for other portions of the Texas and Louisiana coasts:

  • Sargent, Texas, to Sabine Pass including Galveston Bay: 2-4 feet.
  • Sabine Pass to Ocean Springs, Miss.: 1-3 feet.
  • Baffin Bay, Texas to Sargent, Texas: 1-3 feet.
  • The mouth of the Rio Grande to Baffin Bay: 1-2 feet.

Beta is expected to produce rainfall accumulations of 5-10 inches with isolated totals of 15 inches from the middle Texas coast to southeast Louisiana this week. Rainfall totals of 3-5 inches are expected northward into the ArkLaTex region and east into the Lower Mississippi Valley. Flash and urban flooding is likely, as well as isolated minor river flooding.

Isolated tornadoes were also possible, as is typical with landfalling tropical systems.

Going Greek

On Sept. 18, Tropical Storm Wilfred completed the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane names list. After that, meteorologists turned to the Greek Alphabet: Storms Alpha and Beta were named that day. Three named storms in the same day broke the record for the North Atlantic during the modern era.

Beta is the 23rd named storm of the 2020 season. The only other time meteorologists have had to use the Greek Alphabet was during the hyperactive storm 2005 season. Beta is also the 10th named storm in September alone, breaking the record for most September storms on record with more than a week still to go.

With 70 days left in the hurricane season ending Nov. 30, meteorologists are wondering how far into the Greek Alphabet we will get. In 2005, that number was six, making it to Zeta.

What happens if a Greek-named storm is destructive enough to be retired? According to the World Meteorological Organization Greek names cannot be retired. The name will be added to the list of retired names with the year and details, but will remain on the Greek Alphabet list for future seasons.