• Mon. Mar 1st, 2021

Hurricane threat from Tropical Storm Beta as it heads toward Texas coast

Tropical Storm Beta is expected to strengthen to a hurricane as it churns through the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the Texas coast and parts of Louisiana.

Beta began a westward turn toward the U.S. on Saturday morning, with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.

It is expected to become a hurricane by Sunday, forecasters have said.

Parts of the Texas coast could see storm surges of up to 4 feet along with strong winds, heavy rainfall and life-threatening surf and rip-current conditions, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said there is a possibility the Bolivar Peninsula could be cut off by water from the rest of the county.

The county is calling for a voluntary evacuation, and residents who can live comfortably without power for a few days in the event of outages can stay in their homes, Henry said at a news conference Saturday.

“If you can survive in your home for three or four days without power … which, we’re not even sure if that’s going to happen, you’re OK,” Henry said. “If it’s uncomfortable or you need some life support equipment, maybe go somewhere else.”

Henry added that residents should be prepared to leave in case the voluntary evacuation becomes mandatory.

“You should already have a kit and you should already have a plan,” he said. “We hope you don’t have to execute it, but be prepared in case you do.”

The Atlantic hurricane season has been so busy that the World Meteorological Organization, a United Nations agency, has already used up all the traditional names they had picked to identify this year’s storms and is now using the Greek alphabet for only the second time since the 1950s.

Also swirling in the Atlantic is large and powerful Hurricane Teddy, which is moving toward Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph less than a week after Hurricane Paulette made landfall in the British territory.

Beta’s threat comes as parts of the Alabama coast and Florida Panhandle are still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Sally, which roared ashore Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed.