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Tropical Storm Alberto Brings Floods to Texas as Mexico Braces for Landfall

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Tropical Storm Alberto, the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, brought intense rain and coastal flooding to parts of Texas and northeastern Mexico on Wednesday, hours before it was expected to make landfall.

Officials in Mexico were monitoring the levels of dams, rivers and streams and were also cleaning drainage points to prevent potential flooding.

In Texas, officials warned of flooded roads in the Houston area early Wednesday afternoon. The tide was rushing beneath the elevated houses in some coastal cities, such as Surfside Beach, about 40 miles south of Galveston, by Wednesday morning. The city closed its beach earlier this week and warned visitors to stay away as the flooding worsened.

The National Hurricane Center warned that Alberto was a large storm, with tropical-force winds extending about 415 miles north of its center in the Gulf of Mexico as it moved west toward northeastern Mexico. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour, but the main concern was rainfall of a foot or more that was predicted for parts of Texas and Mexico. Tropical storm warnings were issued for coastal areas on both sides of the border.

Forecasters predicted that Alberto could make landfall early Thursday near the Mexican city of Tampico, but its effects were expected to extend far beyond that.

Mayor Gregg Bisso of Surfside Beach said that while the flooding was slowly easing there on Wednesday evening, the city was bracing for things to intensify at any moment, as they did when Hurricane Nicholas slammed into the city in 2021, causing major damage.

“It’s a wait-and-see kind of deal,” Mr. Bisso said, adding that all of the city’s police officers and emergency service workers were on call.

  • Alberto is expected to make landfall on the northeast coast of Mexico early Thursday, but the wind and rain extend far from the center of the storm.

  • Heavy rain will continue across much of southern Texas. Five to 10 inches of rain is likely, with the possibility of isolated amounts near 20 inches.

  • Up to three inches of rain is forecast to fall per hour, potentially overwhelming streams and creeks.

  • Mudslides are also a concern in the hills of Mexico.

On Wednesday, the authorities and residents alike were preparing for the heavy rains and strong winds.

Government workers were setting up temporary shelters, and more than 1,500 electricians were deployed to Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Nuevo León — the three states expected to bear the brunt of Alberto’s force when it makes landfall — to respond to any power outages.

Still, for some states in Mexico, the storm’s arrival was a welcome respite amid a water crisis and scorching heat waves.

“We are waiting for these rains, which are going to be very beneficial,” Luis Gerardo González, the Tamaulipas state civil protection coordinator, said in a radio interview on Wednesday.

Rainfall that the storm brought to southern Mexico also helped temper brutal heat that had caused the deaths of 220 primates. The country’s environment agency said on Tuesday that the rains had caused the populations of howler monkeys, which started falling from trees amid the heat last month, to become more active.

Ahead of the storm, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas activated a range of emergency management resources, including high-water boats and helicopters with hoist capabilities. On Wednesday afternoon, he declared a severe-weather disaster declaration for 51 counties.

The effects of the storm were already being felt on Wednesday.

There were reports of property damage on North Padre Island after coastal bulkheads collapsed from the storm surge. And on South Padre Island, officials were distributing free sandbags to businesses and residents. In Corpus Christi, at least two people were rescued and taken to higher ground after their cars became submerged in floodwaters, officials said.

The National Weather Service issued tornado warnings for counties near Corpus Christi on Wednesday evening as Alberto inched closer. A tornado watch was in effect until 7 a.m. local time for much of Texas south of San Antonio, an area that is home to about 2.5 million people. Hurricanes and tropical storms can produce tornadoes, often in rain bands far from their centers.

In Houston, which only recently recovered from an unexpectedly deadly storm last month, officials were bracing for major flooding this week.

“Be careful, wise and smart — we are going to have large amounts of rain,” Mayor John Whitmire said at a news conference earlier this week. Police officials said they were ready for potential water rescues and were prepared to use 20 high-water trucks and 30 boats. More than 300 Houston police officers are now trained in high-water and swift-water rescues.

The mayor also said the city would pay close attention to ensure that the operators of nursing homes and independent living centers did not leave their vulnerable residents behind in an emergency.

“We are going to being watching this closely,” Mr. Whitmire said at the news conference.

Forecasters have warned that the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season could be much more active than usual.

In late May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted 17 to 25 named storms this year, an “above-normal” number and a prediction in line with more than a dozen forecasts earlier in the year from experts at universities, private companies and government agencies. Hurricane seasons produce 14 named storms, on average.

The seasonal hurricane outlooks were notably aggressive because forecasters looking at the start of the season saw a combination of circumstances that didn’t exist in records dating back to the mid-1800s: record warm water temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and the potential formation of the weather pattern known as La Niña.

La Niña occurs in the Pacific because of changing ocean temperatures, and it affects weather patterns globally. When it is strong, it typically provides a calm environment in the Atlantic; this allows storms to develop more easily and to strengthen without interference from wind patterns that might otherwise keep them from organizing.

Michael Corkery contributed reporting.

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