Hurricane Nicholas made landfall along the Texas coast early Tuesday, bringing the risk of up to 20 inches of rain in parts of the Gulf Coast, including the same area that hit Hurricane Harvey and storm-battered Louisiana in 2017.
Nicholas landed in the eastern portion of the Matagorda Peninsula, about 10 miles west of Sargent Beach, Texas, with maximum wind speeds of 75 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
The biggest unknown about Nicholas was how much rainfall it would produce in Texas, particularly in flood-prone Houston.
Weather forecasters say Nicholas will be a rainmaker. National Hurricane Center Senior Specialist Eric Blake predicts Nicholas will knock parts of the middle and upper Texas coast with 8 to 16 inches of rain, and isolated maximums of 20 inches are possible through the middle of the week. 5 to 10 inches is expected across the rest of the Texas coast to southwest Louisiana.
“Life-threatening fall and urban flooding is possible, especially in parts of the upper Texas Gulf Coast,” the hurricane center said.
River floods were also an issue.
In flood-prone Houston, officials feared heavy rains, expected late Monday and early Tuesday, could flood streets and flood homes. Authorities deployed flood rescue vehicles across the city and erected barricades in more than 40 locations prone to flooding, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
“This city is very resilient. We know what to do. We know how to prepare, ”said Turner, referring to four major flooding events that have occurred in the Houston area in recent years, including devastating Harvey damage that flooded more than 150,000 homes in the Houston area.
Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo urged local residents to avoid the streets on Monday evening to avoid their lives or the lives of first responders who may be called to save them from flooded streets.
“What I have to do with every resident is be where you need to be by 6:00 pm and stay there,” said Hidalgo, the senior elected official in Harris County, which includes Houston.
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Louisiana, where more than 100,000 households and businesses are without power two weeks after the devastation of Hurricane Ida, was in 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 says.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said resources had been allocated in Houston and along the state’s entire Gulf Coast prior to the storm.
“We urge you to listen to local weather warnings and heed local warnings from local officials,” Abbott said. “Avoid floods and the effects of flooding. And be safe.”
Nicholas is on his way to the same area of Texas that was badly hit by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. This storm hit land on the central Texas coast, then persisted for four days, dropping more than 60 inches of rain in parts of southeast Texas. Harvey has been blamed for at least 68 deaths.
Schools close before the storm
About a dozen public school systems near Galveston, Texas closed for the day Monday, and Galveston schools closed around noon. Several counties in the Houston area have closed or planned early release. The Houston Independent School District tweeted that the campus and district offices would remain open on Monday – but would remain closed on Tuesday.
Texas A&M University-Kingsville canceled classes and the school’s Corpus Christi campus switched to distance learning for the day. The University of Houston was open Monday but was monitoring the forecast of excessive rainfall and flooding. The school announced that the status for Tuesday has not yet been determined.
The hurricane season was one of the most active
Nicholas is the 14th named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. In only four other years from 1966 through September 12, there were 14 or more named storms: 2005, 2011, 2012, and 2020.
The National Hurricane Center monitors two other systems in the Atlantic; the chances are increasing that the systems will develop into tropical depression this week.
The next names in the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season will be Odette and Peter.
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Follow the path of tropical storm Nicholas
Contribution: The Associated Press