Texas eyes next storm, braces for a foot of rain

- John Bacon, Megan Kearney and Doyle Rice

Schools closed and storm surge watches and warnings raced across the Gulf Coast as Nicholas churned along the Texas coast, a strengthen­ing tropical storm that could reach hurricane status when it was expected to slam ashore late Monday.

Nicholas, with sustained winds of 60 mph, was centered about 70 miles southsouth­east of Port Aransas, Texas, and was headed north Monday afternoon. It was forecast to move onshore along the coast of south or central Texas.

“Strengthen­ing is forecast today, and Nicholas could reach the northwest Gulf Coast as a hurricane,” National Hurricane Center senior specialist Eric Blake said.

The storm was expected to weaken Tuesday and Wednesday as it moves over land, he said.

AccuWeathe­r meteorolog­ist Ryan Adamson was more optimistic and suggested the storm would spend limited time over warm Gulf of Mexico waters and thus probably wouldn’t reach hurricane strength – sustained winds of at least 74 mph.

A hurricane watch was issued from Port Aransas to San Luis Pass, Texas. Nearly all of the state’s coastline was under a tropical storm warning.

Whether a hurricane or tropical storm, meteorolog­ists agreed Nicholas would be a rainmaker.

Blake forecast Nicholas to pound parts of the middle and upper Texas coastline with 8 to 16 inches of rain, and isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches are possible through the middle of the week.

Across the rest of coastal Texas into southwest Louisiana, 5 to 10 inches was expected.

“Life-threatenin­g flash and urban flooding impacts are possible, especially across portions of the upper Texas Gulf Coast,” the hurricane center said. River flooding also was a concern. Louisiana, where more than 100,000 homes and businesses remain without power two weeks after the devastatio­n of Hurricane Ida, was under a state of emergency.

In Texas, Houston could be blasted with 8 to 12 inches of rain, and nearby areas could see up to 24 inches, AccuWeathe­r forecast.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said resources had been deployed in Houston and along the state’s entire Gulf Coast ahead of the storm.

“We urge you to listen to local weather alerts and heed local warnings from local officials,” Abbott said. “Be sure to avoid high water and the affects of flooding. And be safe.”

Nicholas was headed toward the same area of Texas that was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

That storm made landfall in the middle Texas coast, then stalled for four days, dropping more than 60 inches of rain in parts of southeast Texas. Harvey was blamed for at least 68 deaths.

About a dozen public school systems near Galveston, Texas, shut down for the day Monday, and Galveston schools closed around noon. Several districts in the Houston area shut down or planned early releases. The Houston Independen­t School District tweeted that campuses and district offices would be closed Tuesday.

Texas A&M University-Kingsville canceled classes, and the school’s Corpus Christi campus switched to remote learning for the day. The University of Houston was open Monday but was monitoring the forecast for excessive rainfall and flooding.

Nicholas is the 14th named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. Only four other years since 1966 have had 14 or more named storms by Sept. 12: 2005, 2011, 2012 and 2020.

The National Hurricane Center was monitoring two other systems in the Atlantic; chances are increasing for the systems to develop into tropical depression­s this week.

The next names in the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season will be Odette and Peter.

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