Early Tuesday, Hurricane Nicholas made landfall on the Texas coast, dumping up to 20 inches of rain in the same area flooded by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, flooding storm-ravaged Louisiana and threatening life-threatening flash floods into the deep south.
Nicholas impacted the Matagorda Peninsula's eastern tip and was quickly degraded to a tropical storm. According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, it was around 30 miles south-southwest of Houston, Texas, with maximum winds of 70 mph. The 14th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season in 2021 was Nicholas.
According to scientists, due to human-caused climate change, devastating storms are growing more common and intense. Only four other years since 1966 have produced 14 or more named storms by September 12th, according to Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach: 2005, 2011, 2012, and 2020.
On Tuesday, Nicholas was moving north-northeast at 9 mph, and the center was predicted to travel slowly over southeastern Texas and southwest Louisiana.
The biggest question was how much rain would fall in Texas, particularly in Houston, prone to flooding. A tropical storm warning was in effect for nearly the whole state's coastline, with probable flash floods and urban flooding.
According to Governor Greg Abbott, authorities have deployed rescue teams and resources in the Houston area and down the coast. Officials in Houston were concerned that heavy rain might flood streets and homes. Mayor Sylvester Turner said authorities deployed high-water rescue vehicles and set barricades at more than 40 places.
“This city is a survivor. We've figured out what we need to do. We know how to prepare,” Turner said, referring to four major flood events in the Houston area in recent years, including Harvey's devastation.
According to National Weather Service meteorologist Kent Prochazka, multiple trees were fallen throughout coastal regions, winds caused some gas stations to lose awnings, and the storm caused widespread power outages.
As the hurricane passed through Houston, CenterPoint Energy estimated that more than 300,000 customers lost power, with the figure projected to climb.
On Monday, several school districts along the Texas Gulf coast canceled classes. The state's largest school system, Houston, has declared that classes will be canceled on Tuesday. The weather danger also forced the cancellation of a Harry Styles concert set for Monday evening in Houston, as well as Covid-19 testing and immunization sites in Houston and Corpus Christi.
Six to 12 inches of rain were forecast along the middle and upper Texas coasts, with isolated maximum amounts of 18 inches probable. 4 to 8 inches of rain might fall in other portions of south-east Texas, south-central Louisiana, and southern Mississippi.
According to the NWS, a tornado or two could form along with upper Texas and southwest Louisiana coasts on Tuesday.
“Listen to local weather alerts and follow local advisories about what's right and safe to do, and you'll get through this storm just like you've gotten through many others,” Abbott added.
Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast in the middle of the state, then stalled for four days, dumping more than 60 inches of rain on parts of the state. At least 68 people have died due to Harvey, with 36 of them in the Houston region.
Following Hurricane Harvey, voters approved issuing $2.5 billion in bonds to fund flood-control initiatives such as bayou expansion. The 181 projects aimed at reducing the damage caused by future storms are in various levels of completion.
Brian McNoldy, a hurricane expert at the University of Miami, predicted that Nicholas "will be magnitudes less than Harvey in every way."
The slowness with Nicholas will be a source of concern. According to Climate Service hurricane researcher Jim Kossin, hurricanes have been moving more slowly in recent decades, and Nicholas might become trapped between two other meteorological systems.
Before the storm's arrival, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards proclaimed a state of emergency in a state still recuperating from Hurricane Ida, Hurricane Laura last year, and catastrophic flooding.
“The most serious threat to Louisiana is in the south-west, where recovery from Hurricane Laura and the May floods is still underway,” Edwards stated.
The storm was forecast to dump the most rain west of where Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana two weeks ago. According to the utility tracking site poweroutage.us, around 95,000 customers in Louisiana were still without power on Tuesday morning.