Tropical Storm Beta is slowly crawling toward the Texas coast and is forecast to make landfall Monday as Hurricane Beta.
The National Hurricane Center expects Beta to strengthen late Sunday night or early Monday and has the potential to bring heavy rains and flooding to coastal regions. Two Texas counties issued voluntary evacuation orders Saturday.
Beta’s projected path shows it making landfall along the lower- to mid-Texas coast before moving northeast up the coast — and then taking aim at Louisiana.
“The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline,” the hurricane center wrote in its 1 p.m. Saturday advisory.
Beta’s center was located 300 miles southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas and moving west at 2 mph with sustained winds of 60 mph.
Texas and Louisiana have already born the brunt of the second most active storm season on record. Hurricane Hanna made landfall in south Texas as a Category 1 storm on July 25 and Hurricane Laura struck the Louisiana side of the Texas border as a Category 4 storm on Aug. 27.
Beta’s slow speed will allow it to dump rain for an extended period of time, the hurricane center said, increasing the chance of flooding and “life-threatening” storm surge. There will also be likely “urban” flooding and flash flooding.
Beta is the 23rd named storm of 2020, which continues to break meteorological records. Tropical Storm Wilfred, which formed Friday, took the last of the “official” storm names this season. When the names run out, protocol calls for storms to be named after the letters of the Greek alphabet. Subtropical Storm Alpha hit Portugal Friday night, and now Beta threatens the United States.
The only other hurricane season to use Greek letters was the most active season on record, the destructive 2005 hurricane season. But the first Greek storm wasn’t named that year until October. That season had 27 named storms, with its last storm — Tropical Storm Zeta — forming in late December.
While storms in November are often weaker and rarely become hurricanes, Colorado State University hurricane forecaster Philip Klotzbach told the Tampa Bay Times that the presence of La Niña, a recurring weather phenomenon of cool Pacific waters, could produce stronger Atlantic storms by reducing the wind shear that would normally disrupt and weaken tropical storms.
It could also allow stronger storms to continue forming late into this storm season, which officially ends Nov. 30, a date that may no longer have any bearing on this year.
Klotzbach said that he’d be surprised if the 2020 season didn’t at least come close to breaking the 2005 record of 27 named storms. That year also saw a record seven major storms, while this year has seen two major hurricanes, Laura and Hurricane Teddy.
Hurricane Teddy, still maintaining its Category 3 strength Saturday, continued its path away from land and into the open North Atlantic. It was located 475 miles southeast of Bermuda, moving northwest at 13 mph with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph.
Though Teddy does not threaten the U.S., the hurricane center says it will produce large swells and potential rip currents that will affect the eastern seaboard on Sunday.
Tropical Storm Wilfred remained east of the Caribbean Sea, 1,480 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, and is also not considered a threat to the U.S. and could dissipate by Tuesday. There are also two other tropical disturbances in the Atlantic — one in the northeast Atlantic and one off the coast of Africa.
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2020 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide
HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane
PREPARE FOR COVID-19 AND THE STORM: The CDC's tips for this pandemic-hurricane season
PREPARE YOUR STUFF: Get your documents and your data ready for a storm
PROTECT YOUR PETS: Your pets can’t get ready for a storm. That’s your job
NEED TO KNOW: Click here to find your evacuation zone and shelter