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Tropical Storm Nicholas floods the Houston metro area as the great storm winds its way along the Texas coastline. The system, which made landfall early Tuesday morning as a hurricane, is expected to drop another 5 to 10 inches of rain over a large area from the north Texas coast to west Florida through Thursday. .
“Life-threatening flash floods” are possible, especially in urban areas, the National Hurricane Center said.
The agency said parts of southern Louisiana could see isolated rainfall totals of 20 inches.
Nicholas is currently 30 miles southeast of Houston, moving east and northeast at 7 mph, the NHC said in its 2 p.m. ET update. The storm’s maximum sustained winds fell to 40 mph, but it’s the rain and storm surge that forecasters say people should be wary of.
Louisiana has bad forecasts
Parts of southern Louisiana are still facing the effects of Hurricane Ida, including tens of thousands of people who were still without power two weeks after the storm hit. Now they find themselves inundated by Nicholas.
Six to 10 inches of rain is expected to fall over most of the Louisiana coast, in a warning zone extending west of Lake Charles beyond New Orleans.
National Meteorological Service
The National Weather Service says much of the coast and interior areas from Texas to Mississippi face a moderate risk of flash flooding, which means flash flooding has at least a 20% chance of occurring. Parts of the alert zone stretch over 100 miles inland, covering more than half of Louisiana.
“It’s possible Nicholas will pick up over southwest or central Louisiana,” the NHC said Tuesday.
The system still projects tropical storm force winds 140 miles from its center – but the majority of those winds are southeast of its center, over the Gulf of Mexico.
Nicholas will likely become a tropical depression by Tuesday evening, with further weakening expected on Wednesday.
Nicholas overturns part of a gas station
Before Nicholas even reached land, the hurricane’s winds knocked down the metal canopy of a gas station in Matagorda, Texas, southwest of Houston.
More than 342,200 utility accounts are now without power in Texas, according to the PowerOutage.us tracking site. Louisiana has more than 99,000 outages, particularly in the southeastern part of the state, although some of those outages date back to Hurricane Ida.
Video footage captured the moment Nicholas cut the power at Lake Jackson, about 20 miles east of Matagorda.
Other damage ranges from numerous downed power lines and uprooted large oaks to flooded roads and damaged piers.
Despite the damage and disruption from canceled classes and travel plans, many Houstonians breathe a sigh of relief.
Because much of Nicholas’ heaviest rains remained offshore, “We were able to avoid much of the river’s flood potential,” NWS Houston office hydrologist Katie Landry-Guyton said Tuesday. / Galveston.
“We were blessed last night,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said Tuesday, according to Houston Public Media. “I’m not going to say lucky. The Lord just smiled at the city of Houston last night. We needed a break.”
Slow movement will lead to more flooding
Nicholas will likely slow down as he heads for Louisiana – a situation reminiscent of slow moving Hurricane Harvey, which devastated parts of Houston with several days of torrential rain in 2017. Nicholas is only expected to cover one small amount of land on the next day.
“Even if the winds start to ease, it won’t change the impacts,” NHC director Ken Graham said in a storm update. “You’re always going to have this heavy precipitation, potentially lethal precipitation.”
National Meteorological Service
On Tuesday morning, several storm surge and flood warnings were canceled for coastal areas south of Port Bolivar, near Galveston. But storm surge monitoring remained in effect from Sabine Pass, along the Texas-Louisiana border, to Cameron, Louisiana.
“An easterly turn is expected over Louisiana by Wednesday. Little movement is expected Thursday,” the NHC said.
Climate change has been linked to the more frequent occurrence of intense hurricanes. In addition to the strong winds, many of the more dangerous storms of recent years have brought enormous amounts of rain, creating new threats to people and infrastructure far inland from the coast.