Biggest unknown with Beta is how much rain it will bring

This GOES-16 GeoColor satellite image taken Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, and provided by NOAA, shows Tropical Storm Beta, center, in the Gulf of Mexico. A hurricane watch is in effect Saturday for coastal Texas as Tropical Storm Beta gains strength. A storm surge watch and a tropical storm watch are also in effect for the area during an exceptionally busy Atlantic hurricane season. (NOAA via AP)

HOUSTON – As Tropical Storm Beta neared the Texas coast Monday, the biggest unknown was how much rainfall it could produce in areas that have already seen their share of damaging weather during a busy hurricane season.

Beta’s winds were weakening as it got closer to making landfall sometime Monday night and the storm was not expected to strengthen into a hurricane. But its path along the Texas coast over the next couple of days once it gets inland could produce bands of showers with heavy rainfall, forecasters said. Rain from Beta was already coming down Monday in the Houston area.

“This still is probably the most uncertain part of the forecast,” Dan Reilly, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in the Houston-Galveston office, said about rainfall from Beta.

Earlier predictions of up to 20 inches (51 centimeters) in some areas were downgraded Monday to up to 15 inches (38 centimeters). Texas coastal counties were most likely to see 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) with 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) farther inland, Reilly said.

Forecasters and officials reassured residents Beta was not expected to be another Hurricane Harvey or Tropical Storm Imelda. Harvey in 2017 dumped more than 50 inches (127 centimeters) of rain on Houston, causing $125 billion in damage in Texas. Imelda, which hit Southeast Texas last year, was one of the wettest cyclones on record.

Beta’s maximum sustained winds were 45 mph (72 kph) as of Monday night. The storm was moving northwest at 3 mph (5 kph) at about 10 p.m., forecasters said. It was about 5 miles (8 kilometers) east of Port O’Connor, Texas.

Storm surge up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) was forecast from Port Aransas to Sabine Pass in Texas.

After Beta makes landfall, it is expected to move northeast along the coast and head into Louisiana sometime mid-week, forecasters said. Flash flooding was possible in Arkansas and Mississippi as the system moves farther inland.