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Beta Floods Houston, Dumps Rain on Gulf Coast as It Weakens

Brian K. Sullivan
·3 mins read

(Bloomberg) -- Tropical Depression Beta flooded Houston, forcing highways to shut and threatening to boost water levels even more despite weakening as it crawled along the U.S. Gulf Coast toward Louisiana.

Beta will likely stall for most of Tuesday, wringing out rain across the region, the National Hurricane Center said. Forecasts are calling for an additional 5 to 10 inches (13 to 25 centimeters) of rain in the middle and upper Texas coast, with some areas getting as much as 20 inches.

While Beta‘s flooding won’t come close to unleashing the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, waterways throughout the fourth-largest U.S. city are swelling. Buffalo Bayou in Houston has risen by more than 15 feet since Monday, the National Weather Service said, while nearby Brays Bayou rose more than 21 feet. Highway cameras around the city are showing roads underwater, and several suburban school districts closed campuses. Houston asked all city employees not designated as essential workers to stay home.

Isolated bands of heavy rain have formed across parts of Houston and to the southwest, said Ryan Truchelut, president of commercial forecaster WeatherTiger LLC in Tallahassee, Florida. Outside of those areas, rainfall totals have been close to 1 or 2 inches.

“It is a relatively small area” getting downpours, Truchelut said. For those areas under the worst of it, rain is falling at a rate of an inch per hour.

A tropical depression is the weakest in a series of storms that includes hurricanes. Beta became one when its winds fell to 35 miles per hour, below the 39 mph threshold needed to be a tropical storm. Beta will retain its name, though, until it finally falls apart.

Beta is the Atlantic’s 23rd storm for this year, the second-most active season in records going back to 1851. So many storms have formed that the hurricane center has used up all the names on its official list and has begun designating new storms with Greek letters. Beta is the ninth storm to hit the U.S. this year, tying a record set in 1916, said Phil Klotzbach, lead author of the Colorado State University seasonal forecast.

A criminal trial in Houston related to a 2017 explosion at an Arkema SA chemical plant, which flooded and caught fire after Hurricane Harvey, has been placed on hold as Beta continues to soak the city.

Across the Gulf, 8.4% of offshore oil production and 6% of natural gas remains shut in following Hurricane Sally, which struck Alabama last week, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. More than 3.6% of offshore platforms remain evacuated.

In addition to Beta, Hurricane Teddy is churning in the central Atlantic. Teddy is headed for Atlantic Canada and is expected to move over eastern Nova Scotia on Wednesday, according to an advisory at 11 a.m. New York time.

Teddy is also forecast to bring very large swells to parts of Bermuda, the Lesser and Greater Antilles, the Bahamas, the U.S. East Coast and Atlantic Canada.

(Updates with Arkema trial postponement in fourth paragraph.)

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