Keep Watch

Updated: Houstonians Shouldn't Sleep on Tropical Storm Beta

If we see 4 to 5 inches of rain during a single band, Houston could have flooding issues.

By Gwendolyn Knapp September 21, 2020

AS Tropical Storm Beta rolls through, stay vigilant.

Updated 1:20 p.m. Sept 22: 

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a Tuesday afternoon press conference that they are hearing reports of residential flooding near Clear Creek and are being investigated now, but the street flooding that started to happen as Tropical Storm Beta made landfall late Monday night is going to continue to occur until the storm has moved on. She also urged that people stay off the roads this afternoon and this evening. “Your SUV is not a submarine, your minivan is not magical,” she said. “Stay off the roads.”

Meanwhile, Houston TranStar is reporting an increasing number of stalled cars and flooded roads. However, Harris County Flood Control Meteorologist Jeff Lindner is expecting more rainfall and officials are already keeping an eye on Brays Bayou (which hasn't spilled over its banks yet), Buffalo Bayou (which is also doing okay, so far), Keegan's Bayou (which flooded overnight), Clear Creek (which has sent water into nearby structures earlier today).

Hidalgo also warned that I-10 is looking good right now, but there are sections of I-45 that are seeing water and portions of Loop 288 that are under water and will likely be inundated for some time since it takes hours for water to drain off of that particular roadway. The area is in good shape when it comes to more serious flooding issues though. Addicks and Barker reservoirs are currently nowhere near their maximum capacities so there are no plans to release any water from either of these key systems that mitigate flood control, Hidalgo stated. 

Updated 11:30 a.m. Sept 22: 

Mayor Sylvester Turner warned Houstonians Tuesday morning to continue to take Tropical Storm Beta—which made landfall at Matagorda Bay late Monday night—seriously as this slow-moving storm has already dumped a significant amount of rain on the city, and will continue to do so as the system moves past the Texas Gulf Coast over the next 24 hours. In view of this, all City of Houston nonessential employees are being sent home for the day (and may be out of the office tomorrow as well) and Turner urged that anyone who can work from home should do so until the storm has passed. 

Officials are also keeping a sharp eye on the roadways and bayous, and have already begun stopping traffic if it looks like the bayou and creek banks adjacent to roadways are about to spill out of their banks. "The reason being, one year ago tropical storm Imelda turned 45 into a lake, and more than 100 vehicles were stranded because it came up out of its banks more quickly," Turner explained. "We are being proactive, so please be patient and remember that we will open the roads again when it is safe to do so." 

He urged everyone to stay home, particularly this evening when another heavy band of the storm is expected to move through. He also reminded people that the more than 70 barricades set up around Houston are "not there for decoration"; they have been placed there to protect people and keep them from driving into dangerous situations. "So don't drive around the barriers," Turner said. 

The water levels at Brays Bayou, Buffalo Bayou, Clear Creek, and Keegan's Bayou are all being watched carefully, Turner said. He noted that Keegan's Bayou is usually the first one to come out of its banks. 

So far there has been some street flooding, and Loop 288 and I-45 at North Main are both spots that are of particular concern. However, while there has been street flooding and about 100 rescues from vehicles so far, there have been no reports of structural flooding, even in South Houston which is already more swamped than other sections of the city, Turner noted. "My hope is that in the next 24 hours that will remain the case, but a lot depends on Mother Nature," he said. "Please pay close attention to the weather reports, because things can change very quickly. And please stay off the roads." 

Published 3 p.m. Sept 21

With bands now moving in from the south,  Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo held a 2 p.m. press conference on Monday, urging all of Harris County to stay on the alert as Tropical Storm Beta passes through our region. “This continues to be a slow-moving storm,” she warned. “We’ll be dealing with this for the next day or two.” 

While this is (thankfully) no Harvey, the coastal sections of Greater Houston are already seeing tidal flooding in low-lying sections, causing roadway damage, and flooded cars due to the rain already brought in by the tropical storm. Hidalgo cautioned that continuing heavy rain and flooding are possible across the Houston area, with estimates projecting anywhere from four to eight inches over the next couple of days as the system crawls along the Texas Gulf Coast. “We just don’t know where,” said Hidalgo.  If even the conservative predictions prove correct and Houston even gets four to five inches of rain, that could still cause some serious issues if it is dumped in one strong band of the storm, she warned.

The county has closed all of its Covid-19 testing sites to ensure safety of workers and those who might otherwise have ventured out to be tested, and officials are prepared to respond to the storm as needed, along with numerous partners (including flood control, the Red Cross, and fire departments with access to water rescue assets), Hidalgo stated. Hidalgo also urged Harris County residents to exercise basic precautions to ensure that we all remain safely out of harm's way until this storm has rolled through. 

Here are some tips on handling the storm:

  • Tune into local news for information on Beta (don’t sleep on this storm). 
  • Access a range of maps, from flooded roadways to bayou levels at
  • Sign up for updates text BETA 888777.
  • Do not drive through high water. And remember, standing water is deceptive so don't venture into any water. "Turn around, don't drown," is a saying down here for a reason. 
  • If you see roads closed with barriers, do not drive around them—this can lead to drowning and puts first responders in danger.
  • At night, it can be hard to see flooded roadways, so stay off road after dark if you can.
  • Make sure your hurricane kit is ready to go.
  • Check your flood insurance status. 

“Let’s hope one of these bands doesn’t bring a lot of water all at once,” Hidalgo said. “We’re watching closely and hoping for the best.”

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