A quarter of a million customers in Texas and Louisiana were left without electricity Tuesday after Tropical Storm Nicholas hit land overnight, threatening parts of the Gulf Coast with up to 20 inches of rain.
Nicholas strengthened to become a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall overnight in the eastern part of Texas’ Matagorda Peninsula with winds of 75 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. On Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT) Tuesday, Nicholas was 50 miles east of flood-prone Houston and was moving slowly toward Louisiana with winds of 40 mph and the potential to cause fulminant floods that put in life-threatening, the center said.
So far, the storm has produced a 6-foot wave in Clear Lake, Texas, and 14 inches of rain in Galveston.
The school district of Houston, the largest in the state, and others, canceled classes for Tuesday. The weather threat also closed several Covid-19 test and vaccination sites in the Houston and Corpus Christi areas, forcing the cancellation of a Harry Styles concert scheduled for Monday evening in Houston.
The storm will continue to cause heavy rains in the same area of the state that was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. That storm made landfall on the middle coast of Texas and stagnated for four days, dropping more than 60 inches of rain in parts of southeast Texas. Harvey was charged with at least 68 deaths, including 36 in the Houston area.
Nicholas Center was expected to move slowly from southeast Texas on Tuesday to southwest Louisiana, attacked by storms, Wednesday. The main concern is how slow the storm moves.
The storm is then expected to stop, and little movement is expected on Thursday, according to a forecast from the National Hurricane Center.
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.
Nicholas is expected to bring the heaviest rainfall west of where Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana two weeks ago.
Lake Charles, which received minimal impact from Ida but saw several walls from Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Delta in 2020, also has a high risk of rapid flooding.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Sunday night, ahead of the storm’s arrival in a state still recovering from Ida and Laura and the historic floods. On Monday, President Joe Biden approved the governor’s request for a declaration of emergency.
Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter urged residents to take the storm seriously.
“Hope and prayer are not a good game plan,” he said.
Southern Louisiana could also see tornadoes Tuesday, according to the NHC.
The storm is also expected to include heavy rains on the southern tip of Mississippi and the southern tip of Alabama.
Nicholas is the fifth storm to rapidly intensify this hurricane season. These types of storms are becoming more frequent due to climate change and warmer waters, according to meteorologists.
The United States has seen 14 so-called storms, including six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, in 2021.
Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist who specializes in predicting seasonal hurricanes in the Atlantic basin, noted on Twitter that only four more years since 1966 have had 14 named storms in mid-September. They were: 2005, 2011, 2012 and 2020.