Tidal water filled low-lying areas of Galveston County even before heavy rains began, and residents hunkered down as Tropical Storm Beta crawled up the Texas coast Monday.
For many residents, preparations for such storms were routine, especially after Hurricane Laura last month threatened to turn toward the area. Others worried that more rains early this week could push already high tides farther along the streets.
In Galveston, high water rose downtown, around Offatts Bayou, on the West End and in Jamaica Beach, among other areas. Low-lying areas of mainland cities, such as Dickinson and in League City near Clear Creek, pooled with tidal flooding.
Businesses closed and school districts canceled classes across the county in expectation of high tidal water covering streets and preventing some people from leaving their homes.
Debra Tabbert, who lives on Beachcomber Drive, just off the beach in Jamaica Beach, stood in her driveway Monday afternoon, watching the water creep toward her house.
“That’s about 6 feet on my driveway,” Tabbert said. “We are Lake Beachcomber right now.”
Water had made its way under some houses Monday afternoon, she said.
“All of the water that’s come into our little neighborhood won’t drain,” Tabbert said.
County leaders this weekend issued voluntary evacuation orders for Bolivar Peninsula, Galveston’s West End, Jamaica Beach, Tiki Island, Bayou Vista, Kemah, some areas of Dickinson and areas outside the levees in La Marque.
The storm was expected to make landfall near Matagorda Bay late Monday and then slowly crawl up the Texas coast, according to the National Weather Service. Tropical Storm Beta was expected to bring 4 to 6 inches of rain and isolated totals of up to 15 inches and continued tidal flooding through Tuesday, according to the weather service.
The city received some reports of downtown businesses or homes near Offatts Bayou that might have taken in some water, Galveston Mayor pro tem Craig Brown said.
“This storm is still not over,” Brown said. “We just need to stay the course, be vigilant.”
People should be cautious through today because the tidal flooding isn’t likely to go down until Wednesday, Brown said.
Michelle Robach, owner of BLU Boutique, 2425 Strand St., watched the street flooding from her home through a camera set up in the shop, she said.
“It’s the price you pay for living in Galveston,” Robach said. “Everyone kind of knows that it happens. We haven’t flooded yet.”
Robach put waterproof tape in all the cracks around the doors and installed flood barriers that are meant to inflate when touched by water, she said.
She hopes people don’t drive through the streets and push water into the business, she said.
The city had heard reports of people driving through flooded downtown streets and causing wakes, pushing water into businesses, Brown said.
The city has a rule against driving faster than 5 mph on flooded streets.
City crews also placed barricades on some flooded streets.
ON THE MAINLAND
On the mainland of Galveston County, there were fewer reports of serious concerns, but leaders said they would stay vigilant for the next few days.
The Kemah Boardwalk was closed to visitors, and Mayor Terri Gale urged people who don’t live in the small bayside city to stay away for their own safety. Storm surge swept into the city from the north, and at least one business and one car had been flooded.
“We’re trying to discourage the casual onlookers from coming down to review the damage,” Gale said. “We need people to stay home and stay safe.”
In Dickinson, restaurant owner Keith Lilley said there was little worry Monday afternoon that Dickinson Bayou would flood the same way it did during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. One of Lilley’s restaurants, Marais, 2015 FM 517 East, is on the shore of the bayou.
“The bayou does what it does,” Lilley said. “It rises and then when the rain stops it goes back out. So far, it hasn’t had a negative impact on us.”
In League City, Mayor Pat Hallisey said he was making calls to “widows and seniors” to ensure they were safe and secure. The city reported some street flooding in neighborhoods near Clear Lake.
“We are a little worried,” Hallisey said. The city had placed cameras along parts of Clear Creek to keep an eye on flood levels, he said.
“Today’s story is that it doesn’t look like it’s going to be as devastating as we might have thought, but you can’t take your eyes off it because who knows what these things will do,” Hallisey said.
TIDES, WAVES ON WEST END
High waves Monday crashed over the sand and splashed up to the seawall as a few walkers bent against the strong winds. A chunk of the 61st Street Fishing Pier lay on the sand near 69th Street.
The part of the pier started breaking loose Sunday night and owner Austin Kimbrough decided to cut it off before it caused any more damage, he said.
That section of the pier had lost a piling during Hurricane Laura, so the area already was unstable and had been blocked off to guests, Kimbrough said.
“I had done my best to prevent any further damage until after hurricane season,” Kimbrough said. “It’s not an easy thing to put a new piling in the sand.”
The pier had been rebuilt after it was destroyed during Hurricane Ike in 2008, and this was the first major damage to it since then, Kimbrough said.
Kimbrough estimates that about 1,400 people were watching a live feed of the pier Sunday night.
In Jamaica Beach, residents reported water rising 5 inches to 12 inches on the bayside and creeping up some driveways on the beachside Monday afternoon.
Resident Lorraine “Taz” Jones felt pretty confident about her house, which was near Jamaica Beach City Park and a little higher, she said.
She only had about 5 inches in her downstairs garage, she said.
“Most people have got just garages in the downstairs,” Jones said. “We’re totally fine.”
Jones’ lights flickered on and off all day Sunday, but her power had been steady so far Monday afternoon, she said.
Tabbert was nervous there’s more expected rainfall Monday night and Tuesday, she said.
“When you buy a home on Galveston Island, you expect some of this,” Tabbert said. “It’s hard to sit here and watch it and know you can’t do anything about it.”
Bolivar Peninsula likely is to remain under a voluntary evacuation order through at least today and possibly longer, county officials said. There were no reports of major damage to businesses or homes on the peninsula, county commissioner Darrell Apffel said.
Beach access points along the peninsula will again need to be cleared of debris because of the high tides, however, Apffel said. That clean-up will take some time, he said.
The county on Friday had just finished clearing and repairing beach access points that were blocked by Hurricane Laura, which caused similar high tides four weeks ago.