Tropical Storm Beta is seen over southeastern Texas early Tuesday. The storm is expected to move slowly to the northeast Tuesday and Wednesday, ultimately weakening to a depression. Image courtesy NOAA/NHC
Sept. 22 (UPI) -- Tropical Storm Beta made landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast late Monday, becoming the ninth named storm to hit the United States this year.
The National Hurricane Center said in its 4 a.m. CDT update Tuesday, the center of the storm was 35 miles northwest of Port O'Connor, Texas, and 45 miles northwest of Matagorda, Texas. It had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph and was moving northwest at 3 mph.
"On the forecast track, the center of Beta will move inland over southeastern Texas through Wednesday and then over Louisiana and Mississippi Wednesday night through Friday," the NHC said.
The center said the storm is expected to stall over land on Tuesday as it moves to the northeast toward the Louisiana coast. It's forecast to weaken to a depression late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
Communities that were devastated by Hurricane Laura, and to some extent more recently by Hurricane Sally, could face strong winds and downpours that could hinder ongoing recovery efforts.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 29 counties in Texas on Monday as Beta churned toward the coast.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency on Monday, opening up state resources to aid in local government response. He warned that the storm's slow movement puts the southwestern part of the state at risk for flooding through at least the middle of the week.
Widespread rainfall totals of 4-8 inches are expected across southeastern Texas and into southern Louisiana.
Heavy rainfall and the risk for flash flooding are likely even if the storm wobbles back over the water and lingers just offshore of the Texas coast as currently forecast.
"This rainfall can lead to significant, life-threatening flooding, which may last for several days," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller said.
Even though Beta is not nearly as strong as Hurricane Harvey, which exploded into a Category 4 storm in 2017, it is expected to crawl across the region, and forecasters warn that it will have enough fuel to produce torrential rainfall along its path. In 2017, Harvey unloaded up to 61 inches of rain as it spent days spinning over eastern Texas.
In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison unleashed disastrous flooding across southeastern Texas, due to its slow movement.
Should the storm stall near the Texas coast, rainfall amounts could be higher and may even exceed 24 inches. Conversely, should Beta move along at a quicker pace or more drier air get pulled into the storm, total rainfall amounts could be cut in half for some locations, though flooding would still remain a threat.
Waterspouts and isolated tornadoes can occur in Beta's outer bands to the northeast of the center of the storm.
Depending on the exact track of Beta, drenching downpours could reach the Southeast later in the week, including areas recently impacted by Hurricane Sally.
Weak steering winds have resulted in Beta meandering over the Gulf of Mexico since last week.
The tropical storm claimed the second letter in the Greek alphabet on Friday, following Wilfred and Alpha. Once the last name on the Atlantic hurricane season's designated list is exhausted, Greek letters are used to identify tropical storms.
Prior to Beta, eight storms had made landfall in the U.S. during the hyperactive 2020 hurricane season. In comparison, 3 to 4 storms typically strike the country during an entire hurricane season.