Tropical Storm Beta flooding Texas with heavy rains and storm surge

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(CBS) — Storm surge and rainfall combined Tuesday to bring more flooding along the Texas coast after Tropical Storm Beta made landfall, threatening areas that have already seen their share of damaging weather during a busy hurricane season. The storm made landfall late Monday just north of Port O’Connor, Texas.

Early Tuesday, Beta was 35 miles north-northwest of the city with maximum winds of 40 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm was moving toward the northwest at 3 mph and was expected to stall inland over Texas.

“We currently have both storm surge and rainfall,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Amaryllis Cotto in Galveston, Texas.

Cotto said 6-12 inches of rain has fallen in the area with isolated amounts of up to 18 inches. Dangerous flash flooding is expected through Wednesday, Cotto said.

Houston was also feeling Beta’s effects:

A storm surge of up to 4 feet was forecast from Port Aransas to Sabine Pass in Texas.

“For the middle and upper Texas coast, additional rainfall of 6 to 12 inches with isolated storm totals up to 20 inches is expected,” the hurricane center said.

Beta was the ninth named storm that made landfall in the continental U.S. this year. That tied a record set in 1916, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach. It also was the first time a Greek letter-named storm made landfall in the continental U.S.

CBS News weather producer David Parkinson said, “What’s remarkable about those 9 landfalls is only a third of them were remarkable in any way — Isaias, Laura and Sally.”

Forecasters ran out of traditional storm names on Friday, forcing the use of the Greek alphabet for only the second time since the 1950s.

Beta is forecast to move inland over southeastern Texas through Wednesday and then over Louisiana and Mississippi on Wednesday night through Friday, and the biggest unknown from Beta was how much rainfall it could produce.

Beta was expected to weaken into a tropical depression, but flash flooding was possible in Arkansas and Mississippi as the system moves farther inland.

Forecasters and officials reassured residents Beta wasn’t expected to be another Hurricane Harvey or Tropical Storm Imelda. Harvey in 2017 dumped more than 50 inches of rain on Houston, causing $125 billion in damage in Texas. Imelda, which hit Southeast Texas last year, was one of the wettest cyclones on record.

Beta is forecast to dump heavy rain on the southwestern corner of Louisiana three weeks after the same area got pounded by Hurricane Laura. The rainfall and storm surge prompted Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards to declare a state of emergency.

In Lake Charles, Mayor Nic Hunter worried about Beta’s rainfall could set back efforts in his Louisiana community to recover after Laura, which damaged about 95% of the city’s 30,000 structures. Hunter said the worry of another storm was “an emotional and mental toll for a lot of our citizens.”

Parts of the Alabama coast and Florida Panhandle were still reeling from Hurricane Sally, which roared ashore Wednesday, causing at least two deaths. Two Boston-based disaster modeling firms figured Sally caused about $2 billion in privately insured losses from wind and storm surge. Karen Clark & Company estimated losses at $2 billion, while AIR Worldwide said they were between $1 and $3 billion. The estimates don’t include uninsured losses, the National Flood Insurance Program claims or damage to offshore property, like oil rigs.

First published on September 22, 2020 / 7:40 AM

© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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