Hurricane Nicholas hit the Texas coast early on Tuesday, forecast to dump up to 20in of rain along the same area swamped by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, drenching storm-battered Louisiana and potentially causing life-threatening flash floods across the deep south.
Nicholas made landfall on the eastern part of the Matagorda peninsula and was soon downgraded to a tropical storm. It was about 30 miles south-south-west of Houston, Texas, with maximum winds of 70mph, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami. Nicholas was the 14th named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season.
Scientists say damaging storms are becoming more frequent and more intense as part of human-caused climate change. According to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach, only four other years since 1966 have had 14 or more named storms by 12 settembre: 2005, 2011, 2012 e 2020.
On Tuesday Nicholas was moving north-north-east at 9mph and the center was expected to move slowly over south-eastern Texas and south-western Louisiana.
The biggest unknown was how much rainfall it would produce in Texas, especially in flood-prone Houston. Nearly all of the state’s coastline was under a tropical storm warning that included potential flash floods and urban flooding.
Governor Greg Abbott said authorities placed rescue teams and resources in the Houston area and along the coast. In Houston, officials worried that heavy rain could inundate streets and flood homes. Authorities deployed high-water rescue vehicles and erected barricades at more than 40 locations, 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 (NWS) said multiple trees were down along coastal counties, winds had caused some gas stations to lose awnings and the storm has caused extensive power outages.
CenterPoint Energy reported that more than 300,000 customers lost power as the storm rolled through Houston and that it expected those numbers to rise.
Numerous school districts along the Texas Gulf coast canceled classes on Monday. The Houston school district, the state’s largest, announced that classes would be canceled on Tuesday. The weather threat also closed 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.
Six to 12in of rain were expected along the middle and upper Texas coast, with isolated maximum amounts of 18in possible. Other parts of south-east Texas and south-central Louisiana and southern Mississippi could see 4in to 8in.
A tornado or two may be possible on Tuesday along the upper Texas and south-west Louisiana coast, according to the NWS.
“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.
Harvey made landfall in the middle Texas coast then stalled for four days, dropping more than 60in of rain in parts of south-east Texas. Harvey was blamed for at least 68 deaths, Compreso 36 in the Houston area.
After Harvey, voters approved the issuance of $2.5bn in bonds to fund flood-control projects, including the widening of bayous. Il 181 projects designed to mitigate damage from future storms are at different stages of completion.
University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said he expected that Nicholas “will be magnitudes less than Harvey in every regard”.
The worry with Nicholas will be how slowly it moves. Storms are moving more slowly in recent decades, and Nicholas could get stuck between two other weather systems, said hurricane researcher Jim Kossin of the Climate Service.
The Louisiana governor, John Bel Edwards, declared a state of emergency 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 south-west portion of the state, where recovery from Hurricane Laura and the May flooding is ongoing,” Edwards said.
The storm was expected to bring the heaviest rainfall west of where Ida slammed into Louisiana two weeks ago. Across Louisiana, di 95,000 customers remained without power on Tuesday morning, according to the utility tracking site poweroutage.us.