(Reuters) – Tropical Storm Beta was expected to soak the Texas coast on Monday and later threaten the state and Louisiana to the east with a potentially deadly storm surge, the National Hurricane Center said.
The center of the 23rd named storm of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season was about 55 miles (90 km) southeast of Port O’Connor, Texas, or about 75 miles south-southwest of Freeport, the hurricane center said in its 10 a.m. CDT (1200 GMT) update.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 29 Texas counties in response to Beta, which was causing storm surge and damaging winds, Abbott said in a statement.
“As Tropical Storm Beta approaches the coast, I urge Texans in the path of the storm to remain vigilant and take necessary precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe from flooding, storm surge, and other impacts from this severe weather,” he said.
Some streets in Galveston’s commercial district were closed to flooding and heavy surf ripped away a portion of a fishing pier in the coastal city.
The storm was moving westward toward shore at 6 mph (9 kph), a slow pace that increased the danger of flooding, and forecast to make landfall on the central Texas coast later on Monday.
The storm brought gusty winds and rains to Houston on Monday, and strong seas prompted the U.S. Coast Guard to close the ports of Houston, Galveston, Freeport and Texas City.
Forecasters issued a storm surge warning for hundreds of miles of coastline, meaning there was a danger of deadly flooding from rising water moving inland. Galveston Bay was well within the danger zone, though New Orleans was outside the watch or warning areas.
Even so, heavy rainfall was likely through much of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi over the next five days, with some areas due to get upwards of 10 inches (25 cm) of rain, or perhaps as much as 15 inches in isolated spots, the hurricane center said.
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Slow-moving storms that deluge coasts are becoming a regular occurrence, a development that scientists attribute to climate change.
This month marks only the second time in history that the sheer number of storms has forced forecasters to turn to the Greek alphabet for names, having exhausted their alphabetical list of names selected before the season began. The first year that storms exceeded given names was 2005, when there were a record 27 named storms.
Beta is the third named storm in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico in less than a month, following Hurricanes Laura and Sally.
Forecasters were also tracking Hurricane Teddy in the Atlantic Ocean as it moved east of Bermuda on a northerly path toward Nova Scotia.
Strong winds could be expected in parts of Maine and the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Reporting by Daniel Trotta and Gary McWilliams; Editing by Paul Simao and Marguerita Choy
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