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Tropical Storm Beta beginning westward turn towards Texas

Hurricane Watches and Tropical Storm Warnings in effect for portions of the Texas Coast
The 10pm update from the National Hurricane Center continues to show Tropical Storm Beta battling strong winds and a lot of dry air.
The 10pm update from the National Hurricane Center continues to show Tropical Storm Beta battling strong winds and a lot of dry air.(KBTX)
Published: Sep. 19, 2020 at 12:18 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Strong wind shear has continued to keep the center of Tropical Storm Beta exposed to dry air that sits in the Western Gulf of Mexico. Both factors continue to help keep this storm from becoming better organized. The latest update from the National Hurricane Center as of 10pm Saturday showed a track further to the north with landfall possible near Matagorda Bay, Texas, late Monday or early Tuesday and with little in the way of additional strengthening as it makes the westward turn Sunday towards the Texas Coast.

The 10pm advisory showed:

  • Maximum sustained winds: 60 mph
  • Movement: NNE at 2 mph
  • Location: 335 miles SE of Galveston
  • Minimum central pressure: 997 mb

Overall, organization remains low. It will be telling to see how Beta tries to reorganize overnight with new thunderstorms developing near the center of circulation ahead of midnight. At this time, no big changes to the forecast locally.

The 4pm update from the National Hurricane Center showed that Tropical Storm Beta had become stationary since earlier Saturday morning as it slowly begins the journey closer to the Texas Coast.

4pm update from the National Hurricane Center shows a decrease in intensity as Tropical Storm Beta approaches the Texas Coast.
4pm update from the National Hurricane Center shows a decrease in intensity as Tropical Storm Beta approaches the Texas Coast.(KBTX)

The latest advisory showed that winds and overall structure had not changed much with winds still sustained at 60 mph. The other bigger changes to the forecast included keeping Tropical Storm Beta below hurricane strength based off of recent model guidance. This is subjected to change as this storm sits out over the open warm Gulf waters through the rest of the weekend as it inches closer to Texas. At this time, indications show a Middle Texas Coast landfall late Monday into early Tuesday morning as a strong tropical storm.

Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect for portions of Southeast Texas as of 4pm Saturday 9/19.
Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect for portions of Southeast Texas as of 4pm Saturday 9/19.(KBTX)

Tropical Storm Warnings extend from the coast up through Fort Bend, Wharton, Inland Harris to Inland Jackson Counties until further notice. No Tropical Storm Warnings or Watches are in place for the Brazos Valley at this time. This may change if we see the guidance shift through the rest of Saturday evening and into Sunday.

At this time, the only significant change is that Austin, Waller, and Montgomery Counties have been added to a Flash Flood Watch that goes into effect 7am Sunday through 7pm Tuesday, September 22.

A Flash Flood Watch goes into effect Sunday at 7am and lingers through 7pm Tuesday as heavy rainfall from Tropical Storm Beta may lead to a flash flooding concern.
A Flash Flood Watch goes into effect Sunday at 7am and lingers through 7pm Tuesday as heavy rainfall from Tropical Storm Beta may lead to a flash flooding concern.(KBTX)

We are still monitoring for the potential for locally heavy rainfall and winds gusting over 40 mph for some portions of the southern Brazos Valley. Keep checking back for the latest guidance and updates.

The next complete advisory with a new track and updated intensity forecast will be issued at 10pm CDT.

Air Force Hurricane Hunters investigated Tropical Storm Beta as first light over the Gulf of Mexico showed a storm battling strong upper-level winds Saturday morning. The information from this flight has helped shed more information on how well organized this storm is out over the Gulf.

The 10am update from the National Hurricane Center showed:

  • Maximum sustained winds: 60 mph
  • Movement: NW at 3 mph
  • Location: 305 miles ESE of Corpus Christi
  • Minimum central pressure: 994 mb
Tropical Storm Beta forecast cone and intensity as of the 10AM update from the National Hurricane Center.
Tropical Storm Beta forecast cone and intensity as of the 10AM update from the National Hurricane Center.(KBTX)

Strong upper level winds and dry air, thanks to a cold front that slipped through the Brazos Valley Friday, has done a number on Tropical Storm Beta overnight in terms of overall structure. These strong winds pushed most of the thunderstorm activity away from the center of the storm allowing for drier air to become caught up in and around the center of the storm affecting Beta’s overall structure.

However, a new banding of thunderstorms on the western side near the center was noted as of the 10am update and, if the growth of new thunderstorms continues through the morning, may help to try and protect the center of the circulation from entrapping too much dry air -- which could improve the overall structure and organization of the storm.

Uncertainty in the amount of dry air impacting the storm as well as if the wind shear can calm down over the Gulf and near the State of Texas continue to show a lower confidence in the intensity forecast as the storm makes the westward jog towards the Texas Coast. With the new update Saturday morning, intensity was nudged down slightly, but still keeping the storm as a Category 1 hurricane as it approaches the coast Monday evening. If conditions over the Gulf do not show improvement throughout the day Saturday, the intensity forecast may continue to come down a bit, but it is still too early to bank on any one solution just yet.

One thing that has started to become apparent is the slowing forward speed to the north which may be indicating that Tropical Storm Beta is about to begin the westward jog. It should be noted, that there is also a lot of uncertainty in where exactly this storm could make landfall along the Texas coast. Model guidance has trended towards a Texas landfall before getting picked up by a passing disturbance and slowing working back up to the northeast.

Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect for portions of the Texas and Louisiana coastlines.
Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect for portions of the Texas and Louisiana coastlines.(KBTX)

Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect from Port Aransas, Texas to Intracoastal City, Louisiana until further notice. These warnings are issued 36 hours before tropical storm conditions are expected in an area. A Hurricane Watch is in effect from Port Aransas, Texas to High Island, Texas until further notice as well. A watch is issued 48 hours before the first occurrence of tropical-storm force winds are expected and where hurricane conditions are possible. No active watches or warnings were issued for the Brazos Valley at this time.

Heavy rainfall possible along the Texas Gulf Coast with lower rainfall totals likely further inland based off the forecast data Saturday morning.
Heavy rainfall possible along the Texas Gulf Coast with lower rainfall totals likely further inland based off the forecast data Saturday morning.(KBTX)

The biggest impacts that need to be monitored are for strong, gusty winds as well as rainfall. At this time, flooding rain widespread is not expected in the Brazos Valley and is expected to remain south of the area. However, outer rain bands fueling tropical downpours will be capable of producing 2″ to 3″ of rain in some parts of the area.

Given where landfall is expected, it would put most of Southeast Texas in a favorable environment to see winds sustained or gusting to tropical storm force, which is 39 to 73 mph at times as early as Monday and lingering through Wednesday. Any shift in track could affect the storm’s expected impacts in the Brazos Valley, and will need to be monitored for future updates.

Please stay up to date with the latest forecasts on Tropical Storm Beta. The next complete advisory with a new cone and intensity forecast will be issued at 4pm CDT.

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