Houston flooding from Beta
Flooding in Houston, Texas on Tuesday, September 22, 2020, during the landfall of Tropical Storm Beta. (Image credit: Texas DOT)

Tropical Storm Beta made landfall near Port O’Connor, Texas at 11 p.m. EDT Monday, September 21, 2020, with sustained winds of 45 mph and a central pressure of 999 mb. Beta is the ninth named storm to make a U.S. landfall in 2020, tying a record held by 1916 for most U.S. landfalls by Atlantic storms in a season.

At 11 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Beta, by then weakened to a tropical depression with 35 mph winds, was located inland along the middle Texas coast. Crawling to the northeast at 2 mph, Beta is expected to continue moving at less than 5 mph, roughly parallel to the coast, through Wednesday, allowing the storm to spread heavy rains over Texas and Louisiana for multiple days. Most models predict Beta’s center will not emerge back over water, or will move offshore the Texas coast for just a few hours, so the storm is likely to gradually spin down and dissipate by Friday, given that wind shear is expected to remain high throughout the week. But with a portion of its circulation remaining over water, Beta will be a copious rainmaker.

Figure 1. Radar-estimated rainfall from Tropical Storm Beta as of 9:47 a.m. CDT Tuesday, September 22. Widespread rainfall amounts of 3 – 5 inches (yellow and orange colors) had fallen near Houston, with one area getting over a foot of rain (pink colors). (Image credit: Weather Underground, an IBM business)

Heavy rains from Beta were affecting much of the Texas and Louisiana coasts on Tuesday. Rains of 4 – 8 inches had already fallen over coastal Louisiana near the mouth of the Mississippi River, and rainfall amounts along the Texas coast were generally 3 – 5 inches, with one area southeast of Houston seeing over a foot of rain (Figure 1).
The live storm surge tracker at Trabus Technologies showed Beta continued to bring storm surge heights of two to three feet along much of the Texas and Louisiana coasts.

Here are some observed storm surge heights at 11 a.m. EDT Tuesday:
– 3.4 feet: Rollover Pass, Texas (east of Houston);
– 3.1 feet: Matagorda Bay, Texas (southwest of Houston);
– 3.0 feet: Shell Beach, Louisiana (east-southeast of New Orleans); and
– 2.5 feet: San Luis Pass, Texas (south of Houston).

Figure 2. GeoColor satellite image of Tropical Storm Beta at 9:40 a.m. EDT Tuesday, September 22. (Image credit: RAMMB/CIRA/Colorado State University)

Beta is record-tying ninth named storm in one season to hit U.S.

Beta is the ninth named storm to make landfall in the U.S. so far in 2020, setting a record for the earliest a ninth named storm has made a U.S. landfall. Only one other hurricane season has had as many as nine U.S. landfalls during a full season: 1916. Second place is held jointly by 2005, 2004, and 1985, with eight. Here are the other Atlantic named storms in 2020 to hit the U.S., along with their preliminary damage estimates from insurance broker Aon (except for the Sally damage estimate, which is from hurricane damage expert Chuck Watson):

  • Hurricane Sally near the Alabama/Florida border on September 9 (105 mph winds, 7 deaths, $8+ billion in damage);
  • Hurricane Laura in southwest Louisiana on August 27 (150 mph winds, 33 deaths, $10+ billion in damage);
  • Tropical Storm Marco in southeast Louisiana on August 24 (40 mph winds, over $2 million in damage to the U.S., and over $20 million in Mexico and Costa Rica);
  • Hurricane Isaias near Wilmington, North Carolina, on August 3 (85 mph winds, over $5 billion in damage to the continental U.S.);
  • Hurricane Hanna in South Texas on July 25 (90 mph winds, $775 million in damage to the U.S. and $100 million to Mexico);
  • Tropical Storm Fay in New Jersey on July 10 (50 mph winds, six deaths, $350 million in damage);
  • Tropical Storm Cristobal in Louisiana on June 7 (50 mph winds, one death, $325 million in damage); and
  • Tropical Storm Bertha in South Carolina on May 27 (50 mph winds, $200 million in damage).

Between 1851 and 2019, the U.S. averaged 3.2 named storm landfalls per year, 1.6 hurricane landfalls, and 0.5 major hurricane landfalls.

Beta is the first U.S. landfalling “Greek” named storm. The only other year with “Greek” named storms, 2005, had three that made landfall – Alpha, Beta, and Gamma – all in the Caribbean.

Figure 3. Track forecasts out to four days for Tropical Storm Beta from the 6Z (2 a.m. EDT) Tuesday, September 22, run of the new version of the GFS ensemble model (not yet operational). The black line is the mean of the various ensemble members; individual ensemble member forecasts are the thin lines, color-coded by the central pressure they predict for Beta. (Image credit: Tropical Tidbits)

Category 2 Teddy headed for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland

Hurricane Teddy is on the home stretch of its trek towards Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, Canada, with landfall expected to occur Wednesday morning. At 11 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Teddy had strengthened to a category 2 storm with top sustained winds of 105 mph and a central pressure of 950 mb. Teddy was headed north-northwest at 16 mph as a gigantic hurricane, with tropical storm-force winds extending out as much as 415 miles from the center, and hurricane-force winds extending out up to 140 miles from the center.

Teddy’s enormous wind field had created waves 12 feet high spanning an area of ocean over 1,800 miles across, with a 100-mile-wide area of waves over 50 feet high near the center. The hurricane was generating big swells and dangerous surf conditions and riptides along much of the U.S. East Coast and the Maritime Provinces of Canada, with waves of 10 – 15 feet common in the offshore waters.

Figure 4. GeoColor satellite image of Hurricane Teddy at 9:40 a.m. EDT Tuesday, September 22. The storm had a decidedly extratropical look, with a comma-shaped cloud pattern. Smoke from the western U.S. wildfires is visible at upper left. (Image credit: RAMMB/CIRA/Colorado State University)

Forecast for Teddy

Teddy absorbed energy from the trough of low pressure steering it to the north, allowing it to intensify to a category 2 hurricane. However, the hurricane has now wrung out as much energy as it could from that interaction, and it now is in the process of transitioning to a powerful extratropical storm.

Teddy’s wind field has peaked in size, and the hurricane is expected to steadily weaken as it approaches landfall, given cooler waters and high wind shear. Landfall in Nova Scotia likely will be as a strong extratropical storm with winds of 65 – 75 mph, with heavy rain, storm surge, and widespread gale-force winds all likely to be threats.

Figure 5. MODIS satellite image of Ex-Hurricane Dorian about to make landfall in Nova Scotia, Canada, on September 7, 2019, as a category 2-equivalent storm with 100 mph winds. (Image credit: NASA Worldview)

Canadian hurricane history

Last year, ex-Hurricane Dorian rampaged through eastern Canada after making landfall in eastern Nova Scotia as an extratropical cyclone with category 2 winds of 100 mph and a pressure of 958 mb. At landfall, ex-Dorian’s wind field was huge, with hurricane-force winds that extended out 115 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds that extended out 310 miles.

The storm’s powerful winds and storm surge caused extensive damage in Nova Scotia, and knocked out power to 412,000 customers – about 80% of the province. A buoy moored off the coast of Newfoundland measured a maximum wave height of 100.7 feet (30.7 meters) during the storm. Ex-Dorian caused $200 million in damage in Canada.

Figure 6. Left: Damage in Prospect, Nova Scotia, from Hurricane Juan of 2003, Canada’s most destructive hurricane on record (Image credit: Doug Mercer). Right: Damage at Shearwater Airbase after Juan. (Image credit: Maritime Forces Atlantic)

According to the NOAA Historical Hurricane Tracks website, only four category 2 or stronger hurricanes have made landfall in Canada since records began in 1851. Dorian is the only ex-hurricane that hit Canada with category 2-strength winds.

Here are Canada’s four category 2 hurricanes of record:

– Hurricane Ginny of 1963, which made landfall in southwestern Nova Scotia as a category 2 storm with 105 mph winds;
– Hurricane Gerda of 1969, which crossed into New Brunswick with 105 mph winds after making landfall in eastern Maine;
– Hurricane Michael of 2000, which made landfall in Newfoundland as a category 2 storm with 100 mph winds; and
Hurricane Juan of 2003, which took a worst-case track and hit Halifax, Nova Scotia, as a category 2 hurricane with 100 mph winds, killing eight and causing $200 million in damage – Canada’s most expensive hurricane on record.

Paulette is back

After roaming the Atlantic for 10 days, September 7 – 16, during which time it made a direct hit on Bermuda on September 14 as a category 1 hurricane, Hurricane Paulette transitioned to a strong extratropical storm in the waters near the Azores Islands in the northeast Atlantic.

The circulation of the ex-hurricane persisted for the next five days, and ex-Paulette gradually worked its way to the south over warmer waters. On Monday night, enough heavy thunderstorms had developed near the storm’s center for Paulette to be re-designated Tropical Storm Paulette. Dr. Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University says Paulette is the first ex-hurricane in the Atlantic since Ivan in 2004 to redevelop as a tropical or subtropical storm.

Paulette’s second incarnation will be much shorter than its first, as the storm’s eastward motion is taking it into an area with cooler waters and high wind shear that will likely make the storm post-tropical by Wednesday, and possibly sooner. The reborn Paulette will not be a threat to any land areas.

A relatively quiet period coming to the Atlantic

None of the top three models for forecasting tropical cyclone genesis are predicting formation of any new Atlantic tropical cyclones over the coming five days. As IBM meteorologist Michael Ventrice tweeted on Sunday, the Atlantic this week is experiencing passage of an atmospheric disturbance called a convectively suppressed Kelvin wave, which creates dry, sinking air unfavorable for tropical storm formation.

Also see: How climate change is making hurricanes more dangerous

Consider that respite a break after seeing 10 named storms form this month – an all-time record for the month of September.

The next name on the Atlantic list of storms is Gamma. Let’s hope we don’t see it until October.

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Posted on September 22, 2020 (1:17pm EDT).

Jeff Masters

Jeff Masters, Ph.D., worked as a hurricane scientist with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. After a near-fatal flight into category 5 Hurricane Hugo, he left the Hurricane Hunters to pursue a...

57 replies on “‘Rainmaker’ Beta makes landfall in Texas; ‘Gigantic’ Teddy heads for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland”

    1. Very nice break from the rain, humidity and heat in North Fla the last three days. Sunny with lower humidity. Lows in the mid 60s Highs in the low 80s. But warming up now.

  1. Japan Meteorological Agency
    Tropical Cyclone Advisory #25 – 9:00 AM JST September 24 2020
    300 km South Southeast of Choshi (Chiba prefecture)

    At 0:00 AM UTC, Tropical Storm Dolphin (990 hPa) located at 33.7N 142.3E has 10 minute sustained winds of 45 knots with gusts of 65 knots. The cyclone is reported as almost stationary.

    Gale Force Winds
    210 nm from the center

    Dvorak Intensity: T3.0-

    Forecast and Intensity
    24 HRS: 35.8N 143.8E – Extratropical Low 280 km east northeast of Choshi (Chiba prefecture)

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