Sept. 21 (UPI) — Tropical Storm Beta is expected to be the ninth-named storm this year to make landfall in the United States when it arrives later Monday, forecasters said.
Beta became the earliest 23rd-named tropical storm in the Atlantic, replacing Alpha from 2005, and was the first storm to be named a Greek letter.
In its 4 a.m. CDT update Monday, the National Hurricane Center said Beta was located 25 miles southeast of Port O’Connor, Texas, and 45 miles south-southwest of Matagorda, Texas. It had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph and was moving northwest at 5 mph.
The NHC said there’s a tropical storm warning in effect from Port Aransas, Texas, to Morgan City, La.
“On the forecast track, the center of Beta will continue to move toward the central coast of Texas today and will likely move inland by tonight,” the NHC said. “Beta is forecast to remain close to the coast of southeastern Texas on Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Forecasters had been monitoring the disturbance for over a week before it developed into Tropical Depression 22 last Thursday. Late Friday, it became Tropical Storm Beta.
The National Hurricane Center is now using Greek letters because the list of names has been exhausted.
“Beta has been feeling the impacts of some stronger vertical wind shear found over the northwestern Gulf of Mexico,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller said.
Wind shear and dry air has so far limited Beta’s strength, and forecasters say the factors should prevent Beta from becoming a hurricane.
“How strong Beta gets may hold the key on whether or not it makes landfall,” according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski. “A stronger tropical storm tends to poke higher up into the atmosphere and might get steered westward toward Texas, while a weaker system may hover in the lowest part of the atmosphere, where it avoids stronger winds aloft and then hovers over the Gulf for days.”
Forecasters said Beta has the best chance to make landfall along the coast of Texas between Corpus Christi and Galveston late Monday or early Tuesday, perhaps near Matagorda Bay.
“Tropical Storm Beta is a reminder that hurricane season is still in full swing,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement Friday.
Residents are urged to not focus on Beta’s intensity, as days of heavy rainfall and flooding are likely, even well away from the center of the storm. Heavy rainfall and the risk for flash flooding are likely even if the storm lingers just offshore.
“In 2017, [Hurricane] Harvey unloaded up to 61 inches of rain as it spent days over eastern Texas. Even though this system will not reach the strength of Harvey, it will have the resources to produce torrential rainfall,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.
Rainfall of 4-8 inches is expected across southeastern Texas and southern Louisiana. From 8-16 inches are expected along the Texas and Louisiana coasts.
Waterspouts and isolated tornadoes could also occur in Beta’s outer bands.