Beta drenches eastern Texas, 9th storm to make landfall in U.S. this season

Tropical storm Beta stalled out Tuesday along the Texas coast, flooding streets in Houston and Galveston hours after making landfall amid an unusually busy hurricane season.

Continental U.S. hasn't seen 9 storms in over a century, according to researcher

A boy rides his bike down South Magnolia Street in Rockport, Texas, as tropical storm Beta approached on Monday. (Courtney Sacco/Corpus Christi Caller-Times/The Associated Press)

Beta weakened to a tropical depression Tuesday as it parked itself over the Texas coast, raising concerns of extensive flooding in Houston and areas further inland.

Beta made landfall as a tropical storm late Monday just north of Port O'Connor, Texas, and has the distinction of being the first time a storm named for a Greek letter made landfall in the continental United States. Forecasters ran out of traditional storm names last week, forcing the use of the Greek alphabet for only the second time since the 1950s.

By mid-morning Tuesday, Beta was 25 kilometres east-northeast of Victoria, Texas, with maximum sustained winds of 55 kilometres per hour, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. The storm was moving northeast at four km/h and is expected to stall inland over Texas through Wednesday.

The National Weather Service said areas south and east of Houston had already seen 10 inches (25 centimetres) or more of rain by midday Tuesday because of Beta.

Street flooding was reported in parts of Houston, but there were no reports of buildings being flooded, Mayor Sylvester Turner said late Tuesday morning. Turner urged residents to stay home and, if they couldn't, to not drive around the 70-some barricades that have placed throughout the city.

Water rises from the storm surge of Beta as the storm moved toward landfall late Monday in Galveston, Texas. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle/The Associated Press)

The slow-moving storm was expected to bring multiple rounds of rain to Houston.

"It's going to be moving very slowly heading east and until it clears and gets on the east side of Houston, we're going to have to deal with these rain bands," Turner 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.

Beta was forecast to eventually move over Louisiana and Mississippi on Wednesday night through Friday, and the biggest unknown was how much rainfall it could produce.

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

Earlier predictions of up to 51 centimetres in some areas were downgraded Monday to up to 38 centimetres.

Forecasters and officials reassured residents Beta was not expected to be another Hurricane Harvey or tropical storm Imelda. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 127 centimetres of rain on Houston, causing $125 billion US in damage in Texas. Imelda, which hit Southeast Texas last year, was one of the wettest cyclones on record.

Concerns about storm surge

Storm surge up to 1.2 metres was possible in the Galveston and Beaumont, Texas, areas through Wednesday morning, forecasters said. In

Galveston, an island city southeast of Houston, there was already some street flooding Monday from rising tides, and part of a popular fishing pier collapsed due to strong waves.

Farther south on the Texas coast, Maria Serrano Culpepper along with her two daughters and dogs left their home in Magnolia Beach near Matagorda Bay on Sunday night.

Culpepper said she didn't want to be trapped in her home, three blocks from the beach, with wind, rain and possibly no electricity. She and her family fled to a friend's home in nearby Victoria.

She said her home should be fine as it's on stilts four metres off the ground and was built to withstand strong storms.

"I'm feeling OK now. I had two nights without sleeping because I was worried about [Beta] being a Category 1 hurricane. I calmed down when the storm lost power," said Culpepper, who works as an engineer at a nearby chemical plant.

On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 29 Texas counties ahead of Beta's arrival.

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

In Lake Charles, La., Mayor Nic Hunter worried that Beta's rainfall could set back efforts in his Louisiana community to recover after Laura, which damaged about 95 per cent of the city's 30,000 structures. Hunter said worrying about 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 last Wednesday, causing at least two deaths.

WATCH | Officials tell Atlantic Canadians to prepare as Teddy approaches:

Atlantic Canada braces for remnants of Hurricane Teddy


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Hurricane Teddy is expected to weaken to a tropical storm by the time it arrives in Atlantic Canada, but preparations are underway, especially in areas devastated by Hurricane Dorian last year. 3:22

Meanwhile, Hurricane Teddy continued its path toward Canada, with a predicted landfall in Nova Scotia early Wednesday before moving into Newfoundland on Wednesday night, forecasters said.

The large and powerful storm was causing dangerous rip currents along the U.S. East Coast, and tropical storm conditions were expected to begin in Nova Scotia by Tuesday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center said.

Teddy was about 590 kilometres south of Halifax early Tuesday with maximum sustained winds of 165 km/h. Teddy was expected to weaken later Tuesday and Wednesday, but forecasters said it would likely be a strong, post-tropical cyclone when it moves in and over Nova Scotia.