Hurricane Nicholas, now a tropical storm, made landfall along the Texas coast on Tuesday, bringing the threat of up to 50 centimetres of rainfall to parts of the Gulf Coast, including the same area hit by Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and storm-battered Louisiana. The storm could also cause life-threatening flash floods across the Deep South.
Nicholas touched down on the eastern part of the Matagorda Peninsula and is now about 50 kilometres south-southwest of Houston, Texas, with maximum winds of 110 km/h, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Nicholas was the 14th named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season.
The storm was moving north-northeast at 15 km/h and the centre of Nicholas was expected to move slowly over southeastern Texas on Tuesday and over southwestern Louisiana on Wednesday. The biggest unknown about Nicholas was how much rainfall it would produce in Texas, especially in flood-prone Houston.
Tropical storm warning
Nearly all of the state’s coastline was under a tropical storm warning that included potential flash floods and urban flooding. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said authorities placed rescue teams and resources in the Houston area and along the coast.
In Houston, officials worried that heavy rain expected to arrive by Tuesday could inundate streets and flood homes. Authorities deployed high-water rescue vehicles throughout the city and erected barricades at more than 40 locations that tend to flood, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
“This city is very resilient. We know what we need to do. We know about preparing,” said Turner, referencing four major flood events that have hit the Houston area in recent years, including devastating damage from Harvey.
Meteorologist Kent Prochazka of the National Weather Service told The Associated Press early Tuesday that multiple trees were down along coastal counties and the winds have caused some gas stations to lose awnings and led to extensive power outages.
Major power outages
CenterPoint Energy reports that over 300,000 customers lost power as the storm rolled through Houston and that it expects those numbers will continue to rise.
Numerous school districts along the Texas Gulf Coast cancelled classes Monday because of the incoming storm. The Houston school district, the state’s largest, as well as others, announced that classes would be cancelled on Tuesday. The weather threat also closed multiple COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites in the Houston and Corpus Christi areas and forced the cancellation of a Harry Styles concert scheduled for Monday evening in Houston.
A tornado or two may be possible Tuesday along the upper Texas and southwest Louisiana coast, according to the weather service.
“Listen to local weather alerts and heed local advisories about the right and safe thing to do, and you’ll make it through this storm just like you’ve had many other storms,” Abbott said during a news conference in Houston.
The worry with Nicholas will be how slowly it moves. Storms are moving slower in recent decades, and Nicholas could get stuck between two other weather systems, said hurricane researcher Jim Kossin of The Climate Service.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Sunday night, ahead of the storm’s arrival in a state still recovering from Hurricane Ida and last year’s Hurricane Laura and historic flooding.
“The most severe threat to Louisiana is in the southwest portion of the state, where recovery from Hurricane Laura and the May flooding is ongoing,” Edwards said.
Nicholas makes landfall on the Texas gulf coast, conditions will only get worse locally as the system moves near the area toward the end of the week <a href=”https://t.co/QhKXmC8COL”>pic.twitter.com/QhKXmC8COL</a>
The storm was expected to bring the heaviest rainfall west of where Ida slammed into Louisiana two weeks ago.
Across Louisiana, almost 120,000 customers remained without power Monday morning, according to the utility tracking site poweroutage.us.
In Cameron Parish in coastal Louisiana, Scott Trahan was still finishing repairs on his home from Hurricane Laura. He hopes to be finished by Christmas. He said many in his area have moved instead of rebuilding.
“If you get your butt whipped about four times, you are not going to get back up again. You are going to go somewhere else,” Trahan said.