Tropical storm Beta has weakened to a tropical depression as it crawls inland along the Texas coast to the south of Houston city in the United States, unleashing heavy rain, flooding streets, and causing the deployment of emergency workers to rescue dozens of people.
Rain submerged roads in the nation’s fourth-most populous city on Tuesday, leaving cars stranded in deep water, shutting schools, offices, courts and energy shipping ports.
Houston fire chief Samuel Pena said Beta had caused more than 60 rescues and evacuations of people in floods; most of the rescues had been from vehicles stalled out on inundated streets.
“Stay home,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told reporters. “Just stay home. That will help you and help us. Do not try to drive through this high water.”
The port of Houston began to reopen to vessel traffic with some restrictions at noon on Tuesday, the US Coast Guard said.
Beta, which made landfall late on Monday as a tropical storm just north of Port O’Connor, is the first storm named for a Greek letter to make landfall in the continental US.
Forecasters ran out of traditional storm names last week, reaching instead for the Greek alphabet for only the second time since the 1950s.
The centre of the storm is currently located about 60km (40 miles) to the southwest of Galveston, Texas. Its winds have dropped to approximately 45km/h (30 mph).
Flooding remains the main concern, especially across southeast Texas and southern Louisiana.
The National Hurricane Center said rainfall of up to 355mm (14 inches) have been reported so far and some parts could see a further 100 to 200mm (4 to 8 inches) of rain over the next few days.
Swells generated by a combination of Beta and a cold front over the northern Gulf of Mexico will continue along the coasts of Louisiana and Texas into the weekend. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening floods and rip currents.
Elsewhere, eastern Canada’s maritime provinces are braced for the arrival of Hurricane Teddy. Forecasters are tracking the system, which has now been downgraded to a tropical depression.
The storm passed east of Bermuda early in the week and remains out in open waters, moving on a northerly path towards the province of Nova Scotia, bringing heavy rains, strong winds and destructive waves.
Recent satellite imagery shows Teddy in the northern Atlantic, churning close to the Canadian coast.