• Fri. Mar 5th, 2021

Beta to be 9th landfall storm in record-shattering season

The last time nine named storms hit the mainland United States in a single season, Europe was embroiled in World War I, the U.S. president was Woodrow Wilson, and the year was 1916. This week the United States will tie that record.

On Monday morning heavy rain and gusty winds hit parts of the Texas coast as Beta slowly approached the coastline. Beta is expected to make landfall later in the day, and it is currently projected to arrive between Corpus Christi and Galveston as a tropical storm. The National Hurricane Center’s 10 a.m. advisory showed Beta with winds of 50mph, 55 miles southeast of Port O’Connor, Texas, and moving west at 7 mph. Overnight, Beta brought 3 to 4 feet of storm surge during high tide to the Galveston area down to San Luis Pass.

When Beta makes landfall, it will be the ninth landfalling named storm on the mainland U.S. this year, tying that 104-year-old record.

On Monday, a Storm Surge Warning and Tropical Storm Warning was effect for portions of the Texas and Louisiana coasts and 11 million people were under Flash Flood Watches from the middle Texas coast to southern Louisiana.

Beta is not expected to strengthen much due to strong wind shear and dry air getting pulled into the storm. However, due to its slow forward speed, heavy rain and gusty winds are forecast to last all day and into Monday night. The constant onshore winds will elevate storm surge levels, especially around high tide later Monday evening.

Forecasters warned Beta’s impact will be found beyond the center of the storm, as heavy rain was forecast to fall well away from the center across portions of Louisiana including New Orleans to Lafayette and Lake Charles where training rain bands could cause big rain totals and flash flood concerns.

In this record-tying season, some communities are still reeling from the impact of other named storms. It has been nearly a month since Hurricane Laura made landfall on the Louisiana coast, but many are still without power. Three to 6 inches of rain could fall across hard-hit areas like Lake Charles through Wednesday.

Storm surge and heavy rain were forecast to be the greatest risks associated with Beta. The highest storm surge of 3 to 5 feet was forecast in Texas from San Luis Pass to Sabine Pass, which includes Galveston Bay.

Sept. 20, 202000:24

Here is a list of the surge forecasts for other portions of the Texas and Louisiana coasts:

  • Port Aransas to Sabine Pass, Texas, including Copano Bay, Aransas Bay, San Antonio Bay, Matagorda Bay, and Galveston Bay: 2-4 ft
  • Sabine Pass, Texas, to Ocean Springs, Miss., including Sabine Lake, Lake Calcasieu, Vermilion Bay, Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain, and Lake Maurepas: 1-3 ft
  • Baffin Bay to Port Aransas, Texas, including Corpus Christi Bay and Baffin Bay: 1-3 ft
  • Mouth of the Rio Grande to Baffin Bay, Texas: 1-2 ft
  • Mouth of the Rio Grande to Baffin Bay, Texas: 1-2 ft

Beta is expected to produce rainfall accumulations of 5-10 inches with isolated totals of 15 inches from the middle Texas coast to southeast Louisiana this week. Rainfall totals of 3-5 inches are expected northward into the ArkLaTex region and east into the Lower Mississippi Valley. Flash and urban flooding is likely, as well as isolated minor river flooding.

Isolated tornadoes were also possible, as is typical with landfalling tropical systems.

Going Greek

On Sept. 18, Tropical Storm Wilfred completed the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane names list. After that, meteorologists turned to the Greek Alphabet: Storms Alpha and Beta were named that day. Three named storms in the same day broke the record for the North Atlantic during the modern era.

Beta is the 23rd named storm of the 2020 season. The only other time meteorologists have had to use the Greek Alphabet was during the hyperactive storm 2005 season. Beta is also the 10th named storm in September alone, breaking the record for most September storms on record with more than a week still to go.

Sept. 18, 202002:04

With 70 days left in the hurricane season ending Nov. 30, meteorologists are wondering how far into the Greek Alphabet we will get. In 2005, that number was six, making it to Zeta.

What happens if a Greek-named storm is destructive enough to be retired? According to the World Meteorological Organization Greek names cannot be retired. The name will be added to the list of retired names with the year and details, but will remain on the Greek Alphabet list for future seasons.