The Washington Post
Nicholas drenches Louisiana after initial strike on Texas
Flooding is significant and could worsen as storm loses speed
Nicholas intensified and made landfall early Tuesday as a Category 1 hurricane southwest of Galveston, Tex., lashing the coastline with damaging winds, a dangerous storm surge and torrential rain that has caused significant flooding.
The storm’s winds, which gusted up to 95 mph along the middle Texas coast, cut power to nearly 500,000 customers in the state, including more than 100,000 in Harris County, home to Houston.
Late Tuesday, the storm’s wrath was far from spent. As Nicholas lumbered toward Louisiana as a tropical storm, the National Weather Service warned of “areas of life-threatening flash and urban flooding” in central and southern Louisiana, and far southern Mississippi and Alabama through late this week.
Widespread rainfall of 5 to 10 inches was predicted through early Friday with isolated amounts up to 20 inches as the storm was expected to slow to a crawl, even while gradually weakening.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) on Monday afternoon requested a federal disaster declaration, which President Biden approved Monday night, ordering federal assistance to supplement state and local emergency response efforts.
Some of the worst rainfall was predicted to occur through Wednesday in areas still recovering from Hurricane Ida’s catastrophic strike barely 2½ weeks ago. Ida brought winds above 150 mph to the Mississippi River Delta in coastal Louisiana, knocking out power to all of New Orleans. Nearly 100,000 customers in southeastern Louisiana remain without power, and the same areas are prone to flooding.
“Soils have not yet recovered from Hurricane Ida a couple weeks ago in eastern Louisiana,” the Weather Service wrote.
Periodic downpours were predicted to continue into at least Thursday along the central Gulf Coast as Nicholas moves east. Flash flood watches extended through New Orleans to as far east as the Florida Panhandle.
“With the amount of debris remaining from Hurricane Ida, some drainage systems may be blocked, causing additional flooding,” the Weather Service office in New Orleans wrote.
A few tornadoes were also possible as the remnants of Nicholas travel east over the coming days before the system dissipates.
Nicholas was one of several systems being monitored in the Atlantic. This is the peak of the hurricane season, and at least two other systems — one north of Puerto Rico and the other off West Africa — were forecast to develop in the coming days. One will probably remain parallel to the East Coast and drift harmlessly offshore, but the other is showing signs of potential trouble.
At 5 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday, Nicholas was a minimal tropical storm with maximum winds of 40 mph as it drifted east-northeast at just 6 mph. The storm was centered 50 miles east of Houston, where rain had ended.
Heavy rain was finally exiting Texas; in Port Arthur, radar indicated that more than half a foot had fallen. In Louisiana, areas of heavy rain scattered across central and southern parts of the state, although just one flash flood warning was active, west of Lake Charles.
The Weather Service issued a special bulletin for much of southern Louisiana warning of rainfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour and up to 5 inches of new rainfall through Tuesday evening.
In New Orleans, the heaviest rain was expected Tuesday night, although intermittent downpours could linger into Wednesday.
Nicholas moved ashore on the eastern part of the Matagorda Peninsula in Texas shortly after midnight Central time, about 10 miles west-southwest of Sargent Beach, Tex. That’s about 75 miles south-southwest of downtown Houston. Maximum sustained winds were estimated near 75 mph, and several veteran hurricane chasers reported that Nicholas had a potent bite, especially for a Category 1 storm. A gust of 94.5 mph was clocked at Matagorda Bay.
A gust of 78 mph was clocked southeast of Magnolia Beach, with 75 mph winds at Port O’connor. Hurricane-force gusts also were noted elsewhere along Matagorda Bay, with gusts around 60 mph in Galveston.
Gloria Gonzales, 68, emerged tentatively in the morning from her apartment in Galveston clutching at a blue nightgown embroidered with a pink rose. She had not been able to sleep as her apartment vibrated because of the wind gusts and torrential rain.
From her window, she watched the wind begin peeling metal off the framework of the covered parking outside at Fort Crockett Apartments on Seawall Boulevard.
“I thought it was just going to be a little tropical storm,” she said. Gonzales, born and raised in Galveston, has been through many storms.
As the winds picked up, she moved her gray Chevrolet to a lot nearby. By morning, the parking lot covering had come down and littered the ground in fragments and sheets. A single unlucky car sat under the corrugated metal. Its owner walked around it, saying nothing.
Galveston also has proved the hot spot thus far for rainfall, with nearly 14 inches reported.
According to Philip Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher at Colorado State University, Nicholas was the first hurricane in 13 years to make landfall on the Texas coastline during September, the last one being Ike. It was also the 19th U.S. landfall of a named storm in the past 17 months — an unmatched period of storm activity plaguing the nation.