• Sat. Dec 5th, 2020

As more storms form in the Atlantic, forecasters turn to Greek alphabet

Tropical Storm Beta formed in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, and its unusual name comes from the fact there have been so many storms this season that the traditional list of names has run out, forecasters said.

It’s the second time that the Greek alphabet has been used to name storms since 2005, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

“Get out the Greek alphabet for the rest of 2020” the National Hurricane Center said in a statement when Tropical Storm Wilfred formed in the Atlantic on Friday morning.

The names of storms come from an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization, a United Nations agency. Of the traditional names picked each season, only 21 letters are used in part because it’s not easy to find easily recognizable names starting with Q, U, X, Y and Z, the WMO says.

Beta is the second storm this season to come from the Greek alphabet, although it is the only one expected to impact the United States.

Subtropical Storm Alpha made landfall Friday in Portugal, the National Hurricane Center said.

Also swirling in the Atlantic is the large and powerful Hurricane Teddy, which is moving north toward Bermuda. The hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, which would make it a Category 3, and was 770 miles southeast of Bermuda Friday night, according to the hurricane center.

The center of the hurricane is expected to move east of Bermuda, but its storm surge, winds and heavy rainfall are still a threat over the weekend, forecasters said.

Tropical Storm Beta, which formed from a tropical depression Friday afternoon, is expected to strengthen and could become a hurricane during it expected approach to the western coast of the Gulf of Mexico, the hurricane center said.

By Friday night storm surge, hurricane and tropical storm watches were in place along parts of the Texas coast. The center of Beta is forecast to “slowly approach the Texas coast into early next week,” the hurricane center said.

A storm surge watch was in place from Port Mansfield, Texas, to High Island; a hurricane watch was in place from Port Aransas to High Island; and a tropical storm watch was in place from south of Port Aransas to the mouth of the Rio Grande River, and from east of High Island to Morgan City, Louisiana.

Hurricane Sally just struck the Florida-Alabama line Wednesday morning, dumping feet of rain over the region and causing flooding. At least two deaths, both in Alabama, have been blamed on the storm.

One person apparently drowned in Orange Beach, and a second person died in storm cleanup, Baldwin County, Alabama, Coroner Dr. Brian Pierce said at a news conference Friday.

In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey conducted a flyover of the devastation along the coast after the Category 2 hurricane, which made landfall in Gulf Shores.

“We knew that Hurricane Sally had the potential to be a devastating storm. But y’all, it’s really bad,” Ivey said at a news conference Friday morning.

She described “utter destruction” in coastal communities.

“This will be a lengthy rebuilding process, but we are going to work on the local, state and federal level to get the resources needed to restore Alabama’s beautiful Gulf Coast,” Ivey said in a statement.

There were more than 120,000 customers without power In Alabama and more than 115,000 customers without electricity in Florida, according to the website poweroutage.us, which tracks outrages.

A vehicle drives through a flooded street after Hurricane Sally passed through Gulf Shores on Sept. 17, 2020.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Orange Beach saw nearly 30 inches or rainfall from the hurricane, while other parts of Baldwin County saw near or over a foot of rain, the National Weather Service said in a statement, although the totals were called preliminary.

Pensacola, Florida, saw more than 22 inches of rain in parts from the slow-moving hurricane, which has since moved on and became a post-tropical depression.

Karen Robinson, who lived in a first-floor apartment in Pensacola told The Associated Press that she lost clothes, shoes, furniture and food that were ruined by four feet of water. There are still two months in the hurricane season.

“This could happen again. That’s the problem,” Robinson said as men tossed soggy items out of an apartment window nearby.

The hurricane season lasts six months and ends on Nov. 30.

There have been no storm-related deaths reported in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday, but there were “hundreds of rescues” due to flooding. During the storm there were 250,000 homes that lost power, but power crews have restored some of those, he said.

Officials in Escambia County, which is where Pensacola is located, were searching Herron Bayou for a missing boater, the county said.

It was just late last month that Hurricane Laura made landfall in in Louisiana near the Texas border as a Category 4 storm.

At least 27 people in Louisiana died in the storm or from its effects, including some people who died of heat-related illness while clearing debris, and some who died from carbon monoxide poisoning from generators, state officials have said.

There were around 41,000 customers without power in Louisiana as of Friday afternoon, with many outages in the southwestern part of the state where the hurricane made landfall, according to the Louisiana Public Service Commission website.