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Tropical Storm Beta churns slowly toward Texas and Louisiana

HOUSTON (AP) — Tropical Storm Beta trudged toward the coasts of Texas and Louisiana on Sunday, threatening to bring more rain, wind and stress to a part of the country that has already been drenched and battered during this year’s unusually busy hurricane season.

While Beta could bring up to 20 inches of rain to some areas of Texas and Louisiana over the next several days, it was no longer expected to reach hurricane intensity, the National Weather Service said Sunday. Beta was moving a little faster Sunday afternoon and was set to make landfall along Texas’ central or upper Gulf Coast late Monday night, the National Hurricane Center said. It was then expected to move northeastward along the coast and head into Louisiana sometime mid-week, with rainfall as its biggest threat.

Forecasters said Beta was not expected to bring the same amount of rainfall that Texas experienced during either Hurricane Harvey in 2017 or Tropical Storm Imelda last year. Harvey dumped more than 50 inches of rain on Houston and caused $125 billion in damage in Texas. Imelda, which hit Southeast Texas, was one of the wettest cyclones on record.

The first rain bands from Beta reached the Texas coast on Sunday, but the heaviest rain wasn’t expected to arrive until Monday into Tuesday.

In low-lying Galveston, which has seen more than its share of tropical weather over the years, officials didn’t expect to issue a mandatory evacuation order but they advised people to have supplies ready in case they have to stay home for several days if roads are flooded. The coastal city about 50 miles south of Houston could get up to 15 inches of rain.

“We’re not incredibly worried,” Galveston resident Nancy Kitcheo said Sunday. Kitcheo, 49, and her family had evacuated last month when forecasts suggested Hurricane Laura could make landfall near Galveston, but they’re planning to buy supplies and wait out Beta. Laura ended up making landfall in neighboring Louisiana.

Kitcheo, whose home is 18 feet above the ground on stilts, said she expected her street to be impassable as water from rising tides was already flooding neighboring roadways on Sunday.

“This has definitely been more stressful, this hurricane season,” she said.

Galveston, which has about 50,000 residents, was the site of the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history, a 1900 storm that killed an estimated 6,000 people. The city was also hit hard in 2008 by Hurricane Ike, which caused about $30 billion in damage. Kitcheo’s previous home was heavily damaged during Ike and had to be torn down.

Beta was churning slowly through the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday afternoon about 120 miles south-southeast of Galveston, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and was moving west-northwest at 6 mph

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Sunday said while Beta was not expected to bring rain like Harvey, he cautioned residents to “be weather alert.”

“Be weather aware because things can change. This is 2020 and so we have to expect the unexpected,” said Turner, adding the city expected to activate its emergency center today.

In Victoria County, about 120 miles southwest of Houston, officials asked residents to prepare for up to 10 to 15 inches of rain.

“As with any event, panic is never helpful or necessary, but preparation is, and now is the time to finalize those plans,” said County Judge Ben Zeller, the top elected official in Victoria County.

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