More than half a million customers in Texas were without power on Tuesday after Tropical Storm Nicholas made landfall there, threatening parts of the Gulf Coast with up to 20 inches of rain.
Nicholas strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall overnight in the eastern part of the Matagorda Peninsula in Texas with winds of 75 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. At 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Nicholas was slowly moving through flood-prone Houston with winds of 45 mph and the potential to cause potentially fatal flash floods, the center said.
So far, the storm has produced a wave of 6 feet in Clear Lake, Texas, and 14 inches of rain in Galveston.
The Houston School District, the state’s largest, along with others, canceled classes for Tuesday. The weather threat has also closed several 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 night in Houston.
The storm will continue to bring heavy rain to the same area of the state that was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. This storm made landfall in the middle of the Texas coast, then stalled for four days, dropping over 60 inches of rain in parts of southeastern Texas. Harvey has been blamed for at least 68 deaths, including 36 in the Houston area.
Nicholas’ center was expected to move slowly over southeastern Texas on Tuesday and storm-hit southwestern Louisiana on Wednesday. The main concern is how slowly the storm moves.
Storms have moved more slowly in recent decades and Nicholas could find himself stuck between two other weather systems, said hurricane researcher Jim Kossin of the Climate Service.
Nicholas is expected to bring the heaviest precipitation west of where Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana two weeks ago.
Lake Charles, which suffered minimal Ida impact but saw multiple hits from Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Delta in 2020, is also at high risk for flash flooding.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency on Sunday night, ahead of the storm arriving in a state still recovering from Ida and Laura and historic flooding. President Joe Biden approved the governor’s request for an emergency declaration on Monday.
Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter urged residents to take the storm seriously.
“Hope and prayer are not a good game plan,” he said.
The upper Texas coast and southern Louisiana could also see tornadoes on Tuesday.
The storm is also expected to drop heavy rain over southernmost Mississippi and southernmost Alabama.
Nicholas is the fifth storm to intensify rapidly this hurricane season. These types of storms are becoming more frequent due to climate change and warmer waters, according to meteorologists.
The United States experienced 14 named storms, including six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, in 2021.
Philippe Klotzbach, a meteorologist specializing in seasonal hurricane forecasts in the Atlantic Basin, pointed out on Twitter that only four more years since 1966 have seen 14 named storms in mid-September. These are: 2005, 2011, 2012 and 2020.