Multiple Ports Close as Tropical Storm Beta Approaches Texas

nasa photo of tropical storm beta
Tropical Storm Beta off the coast of Texas, September 20 (NASA)

Published Sep 20, 2020 11:00 PM by The Maritime Executive

Tropical Storm Beta is set to become the third named cyclonic storm to make landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast in a month and the ninth named storm to arrive on U.S. shores this season. The World Meteorological Organization has run out of its list of names for tropical storms this year, and it has transitioned to using the letters of the Greek alphabet. 

Beta was hovering slowly in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico Sunday afternoon, but it is expected to swing northwest and make landfall as a tropical storm on Monday in the vicinity of Matagorda, Texas. It should then move slowly eastwards past Houston, Beaumont and Lake Charles - all major refining and petchem centers. 

In anticipation of the storm's arrival, the ports of Freeport, Galveston, Houston, Texas City, Beaumont, Sabine and Lake Charles have all been closed. Most in-port movement and cargo activity must shut down, and barge fleeting areas have been advised to double-up or triple their mooring lines to avoid breakaways. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement - the safety regulator for the offshore industry - only a few production platforms in the U.S. GoM are currently shut down. No anchored drill rigs have been evacuated due to the storm's advance, and all DP-enabled rigs are on their well sites and operating as usual. 

In addition to high winds, a wide swath of the U.S. Gulf coastline - including areas hit by Hurricane Laura just last month - could experience storm surge of between two and four feet. "I urge everyone to prepare for heavy rainfall and the threat of storm surge and flooding in certain regions of the state due to Tropical Storm Beta," cautioned Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards.  

Meanwhile, Hurricane Teddy is working its way northwards parallel to the U.S. East Coast, bound for Canada's Maritime provinces. A coastal flood warning is in effect for Hampton Roads and select segments of the Eastern Seaboard south into Florida due to high wave action from the storm. Teddy is likely to bring tropical storm-force winds to parts of Nova Scotia on Tuesday before heading off to the northeast. 

In the Mediterranean, Cyclone Ianos - a rare "Mediterranean hurricane" - came ashore north of Athens on Saturday, killing three and leaving two missing. The inland city of Karditsa experienced winds of up to 75 miles per hour, along with heavy flooding. Images from the Greek island of Kefalonia show extensive damage to moored yachts and other small vessels. "Mediterranean cyclones or hurricanes have tropical characteristics like those in the Atlantic, but they often have a smaller volume and are less intense," meteorologist Kostas Lagouvardos told AFP.