ANGLETON — Brazoria County officials have signed an emergency declaration and ordered voluntary evacuations and beach closures ahead of Tropical Storm Beta.
“I have … issued a voluntary evacuation for low-lying coastal areas outside of the protection levee,” County Judge Matt Sebesta said. The issuance went into effect at 4 p.m. Saturday, according to a news release from Public Information Officer Sharon Trower.
“Those along the coast need to be prepared and have a plan if conditions worsen,” the release states.
A 4 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center on Saturday indicated Tropical Storm Beta was stationary over the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, but advised a storm surge warning and a hurricane watch are in effect for Port Aransas to High Island.
“Beta has been nearly stationary for the past several hours,” the update stated. “A westward drift is expected tonight, followed by a slow motion toward the west-northwest that should continue through late Monday.”
Saturday evening’s forecast does not show Tropical Storm Beta strengthening to a hurricane, National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Kamman said .
“It’s coming into the Matagorda Bay area as a tropical storm,” Kamman said.
The storm is expected to make landfall near northwest Palacios late Monday or early Tuesday, before moving northeast up the coastline, he said. It’s expected to be right over the Dickinson area Wednesday afternoon, and then to move up toward western Louisiana by Thursday afternoon, he said.
About 3 feet of storm surge is expected, and the most dangerous window for that will be Sunday through about Tuesday, particularly during high tide, Kamman said.
The county made the decision to close their beaches to vehicular traffic beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday, according to another news release from Trower.
“We’re already seeing abnormally high tides and we will start seeing the effects from Beta, and so for the next several days we will have very high tides that will at times potentially overflow Bluewater Highway,” Sebesta said.
Bluewater Highway will only be shut down when water covers the roadway and makes it impassable, he said. How long the beaches will remain closed is up to Mother Nature, he said.
Because of the tides, Surfside Beach officials closed three of the beach’s five vehicular entrances Saturday morning, and would watch to determine whether to close the remaining two, Mayor Larry Davison said.
“It’s all kind of in flux, waiting to see if it makes all these turns they say it’s gonna make,” he said.
Entrances will remain closed until the danger passes, he said.
People were out enjoying the beaches in the early afternoon Saturday.
“It’s a nice day, other than water being high from the storm,” Davison said.
Freeport decided to close its beaches at 3 p.m., Police Chief Raymond Garivey said. The city always tries to do so sooner rather than later, he said.
“We know folks wanna go out there and take a look, and we understand that,” he said. “But from our point of view, it’s a safety issue.”
Coastal Brazoria County could see 12 to 18 inches of rainfall, while inland areas could see 10 to 12 inches, Kamman said. But that precipitation will come over the course of two or three days and not all at once, he said.
The Coast Guard has advised mariners to take precautions, including to stay off the water and to evacuate as necessary, and to watch weather forecasts, according to a news release from the 8th District.
Earlier in the day, Lake Jackson city officials urged residents not to put out any heavy trash until the storm has made landfall, because of the threat of high winds. City crews will continue regular sanitation services, Megan Borth, assistant to the city manager, stated in an email.
The county will continue issuing advisories as needed, Sebesta said. He urged that residents continue to visit trusted news sources for updates on the tropical system.
“We’ve been putting out advisories all day for folks to be aware,” he said. “It doesn’t look like it’s going to be a major hurricane but we will see some rain, we will see some wind, and we will see some abnormally high tides — and all of that is, to different degrees, based on the track that the storm takes.”