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Texas on hurricane watch as Tropical Storm Beta gains strength in Gulf of Mexico

Click to play video 'Strong wind, rain lashes Florida as Tropical Storm Sally approaches Gulf Coast' Strong wind, rain lashes Florida as Tropical Storm Sally approaches Gulf Coast
WATCH: Strong wind, rain lashes Florida as Tropical Storm Sally approaches Gulf Coast

An exceptionally busy Atlantic hurricane season was churning along Saturday as the Texas coast prepared for a tropical storm that’s forecast to strengthen into a hurricane before breaching its shores in the week ahead.

Both the city of Galveston and Galveston County on Saturday issued voluntary evacuation orders ahead of Tropical Storm Beta, as did the city of Seabrook to the north of Galveston.

Mayor Pro Tem Craig Brown said in a statement that high tides and up to 10 inches of expected rainfall would leave roads impassable, especially along the city’s west end and low-lying areas.

Read more: Forecast models show hurricane Teddy could hit Maritimes next week

County Judge Mark Henry said during a Saturday news conference that his concern is also based on rising waters creating a storm surge and that a mandatory evacuation is not expected.

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

Tropical Storm Beta was brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, 495 kilometres east-southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas, and 395 kilometres south of Lake Charles, Louisiana, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory. The system was forecast to become a hurricane on Sunday and triggered a tropical storm warning from Port Aransas, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana.

In Lake Charles, Louisiana, where thousands of people remain without power more than three weeks after Hurricane Laura slammed into the coast, there are concerns that Beta could super-soak the region once again. Up to 15 centimetres of rain is possible in some parts of the area, Donald Jones, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Lake Charles, said in a Saturday briefing.

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“A lot of people have been saying, `Is this going to be like Harvey? Is this going to be like Imelda?”’ Jones said. “We’re not talking about rainfall totals yet that are on the orders of magnitude that we saw with that.” Imelda, which struck southeast Texas in 2019, was one of the wettest cyclones on record. Harvey — which dumped more than 127 centimetres of rain on Houston in 2017.

However, if the storm ends up moving a bit slower than what’s being forecast now, rainfall totals could be even higher than 20 inches, Jones said.

“Harvey was a very specific and unique event, but we are talking about the same idea in terms of very heavy, heavy rainfall,” he said.

Beta had maximum sustained winds at 95 kph and was moving northwest at 3 kph.

Click to play video 'Louisiana governor warns of long recovery after Hurricane Laura' Louisiana governor warns of long recovery after Hurricane Laura
Louisiana governor warns of long recovery after Hurricane Laura

Forecasters were predicting up to 1.2 metres of storm surge along parts of the Texas coast that included Baffin Bay, Corpus Christi Bay, Galveston Bay and more. Wind, heavy rainfall and life-threatening surf and rip current conditions were also expected with the storm.

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Forecasters ran out of traditional storm names on Friday, forcing the use of the Greek alphabet for only the second time since the 1950s.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Teddy remained a powerful hurricane Saturday, with maximum sustained winds at 195 kph and moving northwest at 22 kph. Teddy was centred 825 kilometres southeast of Bermuda less than a week after Hurricane Paulette made landfall in the wealthy British territory.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for Bermuda. Large swells from Teddy were forecast to impact the Lesser Antilles, the Greater Antilles, the Bahamas and Bermuda, and were expected to impact the U.S. East Coast.

Read more: Underwater and on fire: How climate change is magnifying extreme weather in the U.S.

Parts of the Alabama coast and Florida Panhandle were still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Sally, which roared ashore on Wednesday. At least two deaths were blamed on the system. Roughly 82,300 were still without power in the Florida Panhandle on Saturday. Gulf Power said 95 per cent of its customers in hardest hit Escambia and Santa Rosa counties will have power restored by the end of the day Tuesday.

Meanwhile, residents in Springfield were warned to avoid contact with standing water after about 19,000 litres of raw sewage spilled into Lake Martin, according to a press release from county health officials.

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The Salvation Army was distributing roughly 9,000 meals Saturday at nine locations throughout the Panhandle.

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AP reporters Jeff Martin in Marietta, Georgia, and Ken Miller in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.