Various cities in Hidalgo County have begun sandbag distribution in preparation of the now-upgraded Tropical Storm Beta.
As of early Friday evening, Tropical Storm Beta was about 280 miles southeast of the mouth of the Rio Grande, with maximum sustained winds at 40 mph, according to Tim Speece, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Brownsville.
Speece explained that Beta is moving northeast at about 9 mph and is expected to continue into Saturday, where the storm is supposed to turn more to the west later in the day or at night.
With the current forecast track, Speece further explained that Beta will be closer to Texas’ lower and middle coast line. Around midday Monday, the center of the storm is expected to be 60-80 miles offshore of Kenedy County.
However, due to Tropical Storm Beta irregular movement, which Speece described as “zig-zagging” or “a giant ‘S,’” it is still being determined where the storm will make landfall.
“Because it’s a meandering path right now, the threat to the lower Texas coastline could persist for several days,” Speece said.
As of now, Speece explained the highest rainfall amount will be expected right on the coastline, citing South Padre Island as an example, which is expected to face a total of 8-10 inches of rainfall from Friday to Wednesday.
Past the coastline and into the counties of Cameron, Willacy and Kenedy, Speece said the total rainfall expected for the western half of the counties is 4-6 inches, with the eastern half of the counties possibly facing 6-8 inches — from Friday to Wednesday.
The spaces between I-69 east and I-69 central, which Speece noted included the areas of McAllen and Falfurrias, are expected 4-6 inches of total rainfall.
“The further west you get, the lower the amounts,” Speece said in reference to the total inches of rainfall. “The closer to the coastline you are, the more rainfall you’re expecting.”
As an example, Speece noted areas like Rio Grande City are looking at 2-3 inches of total rainfall until Wednesday.
Speece explained individuals should pay attention to the latest information provided by the National Hurricane Center.
“This is such an erratically moving storm,” Speece said. “There’s always the possibility there could be changes to the forecast track.”
As of now, Speece said the NWS issued a coastal flood advisory, which is currently in effect, and a coastal flood watch ongoing for the weekend for South Padre Island.
Prior to Tropical Storm Beta, the first storm formed in the eastern tropical Atlantic was Tropical Storm Wilfred, followed by Alpha an hour later.
The last time the National Hurricane Center forecasters had to use Greek alphabet for storm names was in 2005. Now, 15 years later, the hurricane center entered the Greek alphabet once again with the naming of Subtropical Storm Alpha — followed by Tropical Storm Beta.
In response, various cities in Hidalgo County have begun storm preparation efforts.
Hidalgo County Precinct One will resume distribution of sandbags on Saturday, from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Sunrise Hill Park, located at Mile 11 N and Mile 1 1/2 W in Mercedes.
Residents are asked to bring their own shovel, as the distribution will be self-serve only, according to Precinct 1 county Commissioner David Fuentes’ tweet.
Facial coverings are required during the distribution. Six sandbags will be provided per vehicle.
Sandbag distribution is occurring here through Sunday.
Until 7:30 p.m., sandbags are available at the McAllen Youth Baseball Complex, located at 8201 N. 29th, South Texas College at the corner of Ware and Military, and at the college’s Jaguar Express parking lot on 495.
At the same locations, the city of McAllen will continue to hold sandbag distribution on Saturday and Sunday, from 8 a.m. to, if weather permits, 7:30 p.m.
The city reminds residents to bring shovels to “expedite process,” according to their tweet.
Distribution is limited to city residents, as the city asks residents to provide an ID or current utility bill. Households are limited to six bags, while businesses are limited to 12.
Distribution has begun here at the Mission Event Center, located at 200 N. Shary Road, and Lions Park, located at 1500 Kika de la Garza Loop, and will continue until Saturday at the same time, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Although they will provide bags, sand and shovels, officials recommend residents to bring their own shovel as a COVID-19 precaution, the city tweeted, in addition to providing several sandbag piles to promote safe distancing and requiring masks during the distribution.
Mission residents are asked to bring a utility bill or ID; assistance will be provided for elderly or disabled citizens. Residences are given six bags, while businesses are given 10.
The city of San Juan has scheduled sandbag distribution at Mayfield Park, located at 1419 S San Antonio Ave, and the San Juan Recycling Center, located at 323 W. First St. on Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The city asks residents to bring an ID or a water bill, according to their tweet. Households are limited to four bags, with businesses limited to six.
Sandbag distribution has begun here at the Weslaco City Hall, located at 255 S Kansas Ave, and will continue on Saturday and Sunday, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
“As we keep an eye on the tropical depression currently in the Gulf of Mexico,” the account for the city of Weslaco tweeted. “We are preparing in the event it brings heavy rainfall to our area.”
In addition to asking residents to bring a shovel, if residents picked up sandbags during the current hurricane season, the city is allowing those sandbags to be reused.
This story will be updated with more cities as information becomes available.