Oil report

Beta weakens to tropical depression as it crawls through Texas

HOUSTON, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Beta weakened to a tropical depression on Tuesday as it crawled inland along the Texas coast south of Houston, unleashing heavy rains and flooding.

Rain submerged roads in the nation’s fourth-most populous city, swamping cars, shutting school offices, courts and energy shipping ports.

The port of Houston, the largest U.S. energy export port, was closed for a fourth day.

Images and videos posted on social media showed swollen bayous, with floodwaters claiming parts of highways and cars stranded in several inches of water.

Beta was forecast to move over southeastern Texas through Wednesday, then over Louisiana and Mississippi Wednesday night through Friday.

Forecasters warned about “significant” flash and urban flooding affecting portions of the Texas coast, where Beta was expected to dump another 5 to 10 inches of rain.

The governors of Texas and Louisiana issued disaster declarations on Monday in response to Beta, which threatened the states with storm surge and damaging winds.

Slow-moving storms that deluge coasts are becoming a regular occurrence, a development that scientists attribute to climate change.

This month marks only the second time in history that the sheer number of storms has forced forecasters to turn to the Greek alphabet for names, having exhausted their alphabetical list of names selected before the season began.

The first year that storms exceeded given names was 2005, when there were a record 27 named storms.

Beta is the third named storm in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico in less than a month, following Hurricanes Laura and Sally.

Forecasters were also tracking Hurricane Teddy in the Atlantic Ocean as it moved on a northerly path toward the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, bringing heavy rain, strong winds and destructive waves. (Reporting by Maria Caspani and Gary McWilliams, Editing by Jonathan Oatis)