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Tropical Storm Bill Makes Landfall; Communities Across State Brace For Storms, Heavy Rain

Courtesy: National Weather Service

UPDATE, 1:30 p.m.:

The eye of Tropical Storm Bill is currently near Victoria, Texas,  after making landfall at Matagorda Bay. National Weather Service Meteorologist Aaron Treadway told TPR News Bill will lose some power by the time it makes its way to San Antonio and Central Texas. 
“By the time [the eye] gets up here it will be a tropical depression. As we get closer to that circulation it will be more of a constant rain as that circulation moves from the coast north through the state of Texas,” he said.

The eye, or what’s left of it, will be near La Grange, about 100 miles east of San Antonio, by 7:00 p.m.

San Antonio, New Braunfels, and the Hill Country could see about 2-4 inches of rain through Wednesday night and early Thursday morning. Projections show Bill will run parallel of Interstate 35 with the heaviest rain hitting east of the highway. The City of Austin could see 4-6 inches of rain.

Although San Antonio will likely not see the worst of the storm, the lingering saturation from the unprecedented rains in May could cause some localized issues in flood-prone areas. 

There is a Flash Flood Watch in effect for Atascosa, Bandera, Bastrop, Bexar, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Comal, De Witt, Fayette, Gillespie, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Hays, Karnes, Kendall, Kerr, Lavaca, Lee, Llano, Medina, Travis, Williamson and Wilson through Thursday afternoon for the next 48 hours.

National Hurricane Center is clocking Bill’s winds at 69 MPH.
UPDATE, 12:46 p.m. Tropical Storm Bill made landfall at 11:55 a.m. about 30 miles northeast of Port Aransas. It is traveling WNW at 9 mph. South central Texas is under a Flash Flood Watch until midday Thursday. Three to six inches of rain are expected in some areas along the 281 corridor.

  Ain't no Baywatch here to save you bro....keep it up... You've been warned! #Galveston #TSBill A video posted by Isiah Carey (@isiahcareyfox26) on Jun 16, 2015 at 7:59am PDT

DALLAS — The eastern half of Texas was preparing for renewed flooding as Tropical Storm Bill approached the state’s Gulf Coast.

The National Hurricane Center predicted the storm would make landfall Tuesday morning somewhere between Baffin Bay, south of Corpus Christi, and High Island, just up the coast from Galveston.

Galveston County officials already have directed voluntary evacuation of the low-lying Bolivar Peninsula, where Hurricane Ike wiped out most structures in 2008. School districts from Galveston to the Houston suburbs have canceled Tuesday's classes.

According to projections by the National Weather Service, parts of North Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma could get up to 9 inches of rain over the next five days, and Missouri could get more than 7. After last month’s historic rains and floods, the forecast was expected to complicate ongoing flood-containment efforts.

“If we get that much rain in that time, there's probably going to be a resurgence of flooding along these rivers,” said Kurt Van Speybroeck, meteorologist for the weather service in Fort Worth.

Memorial Day weekend storms brought widespread flooding to Oklahoma and Texas, killing more than 30 people. At one point last month, 11 inches of rain fell in some parts of the Houston area, resulting in flooding that damaged thousands of homes and other structures and forced motorists to abandon at least 2,500 vehicles across Houston.

More than 10 inches of rain fell over a 30-day period across nearly the entire central and eastern portions of Texas — from the Panhandle south to the Mexico border. Isolated areas received 15 to more than 20 inches.

Those wet conditions could help strengthen the storm, according to Marshall Shepherd, director of atmospheric sciences at the University of Georgia.

While tropical storms usually gather power from the warm waters of the ocean and then weaken once they move over land, NASA-funded research has shown some storms can actually strengthen over land by drawing from the evaporation of abundant soil moisture, Shepherd said. The phenomenon is known as the “brown ocean” effect.

“All the things a hurricane likes over the ocean is what we have over land right now,” said Shepherd, one of the principals who conducted the research.

On Monday, portions of the Red River were near or above flood stage as it runs between Oklahoma and Texas and then extends into Louisiana. Meanwhile, the Trinity River was above flood stage in many areas of East Texas.

Lake levels across Oklahoma remain high from May rainfall, which has forecasters watching rivers in Arkansas ahead of the tropical system.

“We have had time to recover but not a whole lot,” said NWS hydrologist Tabitha Clarke in North Little Rock, Arkansas. “(The tropical system) is going over areas that are already sensitive. ... It’s kind of a perfect storm. There are a lot of things lining up.”

Shepherd said it won’t be immediately known if the brown ocean effect holds true for this storm but an indicator will be whether it forms an eye while well inland. He cautioned that often it’s not the larger category storms that produce the most rainfall, but instead smaller tropical storms.

On Monday night, the city of Houston activated its Emergency Operation Center, and Dallas was preparing to take similar actions Tuesday evening.

Francisco Sanchez, spokesman for the Harris County homeland security and emergency management office, said crews were continuing to work to remove debris from bayous so that water could flow more freely and not build up when the heavy rains begins. (AP)

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules