Flooding rains may threaten the same part of coastal southwest Louisiana hit hard by Hurricane Laura. More than 35,000 customers still remain without power there more than three weeks later.
“As painful and cringeworthy as it may be to have to ponder potential impacts from another tropical system, that is indeed the possibility we face,” wrote the National Weather Service office in Lake Charles, La.
A hurricane watch has been hoisted for a broad swath of the Texas coastline, stretching from Port Aransas to High Island. It includes places such as Galveston and Galveston Bay. A tropical storm warning is in effect from Port Aransas, Tex. to Intracoastal City, La.
The prolonged exposure to onshore winds brought about by the storm’s paltry forward speed will yield a risk of storm surge flooding at the coast as well. Storm surge watches are posted from Port Mansfield, Tex. to Cameron, La., where Hurricane Laura came ashore. Population centers where storm surge becomes a concern include Corpus Christi Bay, Galveston Bay, San Antonio Bay and multiple marine commerce hubs. In some areas, the surge could reach up to four feet above normally dry land.
Voluntary evacuations were recommended for areas of Galveston Island west of the sea wall.
Beta was one of three storms named Friday by the National Hurricane Center, the most in a single day since at least 1933. Beta became the 23rd named storm of 2020, the most on record through Sept. 18. It formed 34 days before the 23rd named storm in 2005, the year that holds the record for the most named storms in an entire season. There are still 10 weeks left in the official 2020 hurricane season.
The latest on Beta
On Saturday at 5 p.m., Beta was located 305 miles east-southeast of Corpus Christi or 245 miles south of Lake Charles, La., with winds of 60 mph. It was stationary and had barely budged from its 11 a.m. position.
Satellite imagery revealed heavy shower and thunderstorm activity to the east of Beta’s center, with a narrow strip of rain already dousing southeast Louisiana. An even more vigorous batch of showers and thunderstorms accompanied Beta’s center farther to the west.
Beta is forecast to make a left-hand turn Saturday night, its northerly progress halted by an invisible force field — also known as high pressure over the Southern Plains and South. That will divert the storm toward the west. While little change in intensity is expected Saturday, Beta’s peak winds are forecast to increase to 70 mph by Monday, close to hurricane strength. However, the Hurricane Center said dry air and hostile upper-level winds may limit additional intensification.
“While the chances that Beta will become a hurricane are decreasing, a Hurricane Warning could still be issued for portions of the Texas coast tonight [Saturday] depending on later intensity trends and forecasts,” the Hurricane Center wrote.
In the absence of stronger steering currents, the storm looks to slowly meander west-northwest toward the Matagorda Bay, close to places such as Port O’Connor and Port Lavaca, around Monday or Tuesday. It is currently projected to make landfall Monday night or Tuesday morning along the middle Texas coast between Corpus Christi and Galveston.
Assuming Beta moves inland by Tuesday, its winds will rapidly weaken, but it will continue to produce very heavy rain and present a flood threat.
Beneath Beta’s inner rain bands and core, 8 to 12 inches are expected along the immediate coastline from the middle Texas coast to the Louisiana coast, with isolated totals of 15 to 20 inches possible. However, exactly how long heavy rain falls in particular areas and specific amounts are still coming into focus.
The storm’s slow progress westward and then turn to the northeast may mean an extended periods of heavy rain in coastal Texas through Wednesday and extending into Thursday in Louisiana.
“The potentially prolonged period of rainfall could cause flash, urban, and river flooding, especially where tide levels are above normal,” the National Hurricane Center wrote as one of its key messages about the storm Saturday.
Whereas rain has already begun along a portion of the Louisiana coast, rain is expected to expand over Texas on Sunday as the storm drifts westward.
“We will eventually be seeing deteriorating conditions as rain bands work their way inland across our area with increasing/ gusty winds along with periods of heavy rain along with rising tide levels,” wrote the Weather Service in Houston, which serves the middle Texas coast. “Beta is not expected to move a whole lot in the Monday evening through Tuesday evening time period as it begins to take a turn to the north, and this slow movement and potentially close proximity to the coast could bring a prolonged period of heavy rain and strong winds along with worsening tide and storm surge levels.”
Additionally, inland parts of Louisiana and adjacent East Texas are also at risk of flooding from heavy rainfall, courtesy of a potential PRE, or predecessor rain event. PREs form when moisture streaming well ahead of a tropical system is focused along a boundary of some sorts such as a cold front. That can trigger heavy downpours along the atmospheric interface, which can, over the course of a few hours or longer, stack up to significant totals.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic
Beta isn’t alone in the Atlantic; in fact, far from it. Tropical Storm Wilfred is churning through the east tropical Atlantic and is not expected to bother anyone.
Hurricane Teddy, 475 miles southeast of Bermuda, was a Category 3 major hurricane Saturday evening. It should pass close to Bermuda on Monday, but the eyewall and strongest winds should miss the island nation. A tropical storm warning is in effect for the island.
Just Monday, Bermuda was hit by Hurricane Paulette, which made landfall as a strong Category 1. Now, Paulette’s remnants have a chance to regenerate into a tropical cyclone over the northeastern Atlantic.
Teddy will make a run north-northwest thereafter, buffeting the Canadian Maritimes and perhaps even sideswiping Downeast Maine with wind and rain as it transitions into a mid-latitude cyclone.
“Teddy is expected to transition to a powerful post-tropical cyclone as it moves near or over portions of Atlantic Canada early next week, where there is an increasing risk of direct impacts from wind, rain, and storm surge,” the Hurricane Center wrote Saturday.
Offshore waves from Teddy could top 40 feet, and its large swells are expect to reach beaches at great distances away, including the East Coast. “These swells could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions,” the Hurricane Center wrote.