Tropical Storm Nicholas weakened into a tropical depression Tuesday evening after crawling over southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana, but still drenching the area with flooding rain.
The downgrade came on the same day that Nichols blew ashore as a Category 1 hurricane, causing power outages to half a million homes and businesses and bringing more than a foot (30.5 centimeters) of rain to the same area hit by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
Forecasters said Nichols could potentially stop over hurricane-ravaged Louisiana and bring deadly flooding to the Deep South in the coming days.
Nichols made landfall on the eastern side of the Matagorda peninsula early Tuesday and was soon intensified into a tropical storm. According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, as night drew to a close, its center was 60 miles (95 kph) east-northeast of Houston, with maximum gusts of 35 mph (55 kph). Winds were blowing at a speed CDT Tuesday. However, weather radar showed that the heaviest rain occurred in southwestern Louisiana, east of the storm’s center.
The storm is moving to the east-northeast at 6 mph (9 kph). The National Hurricane Center said the storm may slow and even stop, and although its winds will gradually ease, there is a risk of heavy rain and a significant flash flooding along the Gulf Coast for the next few days. will continue.
Galveston, Texas, saw nearly 14 inches (35 cm) of rain from Nichols, the 14th hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, while Houston reported more than 6 inches (15 cm) of rain. This is a fraction of the fall during Harvey, which recorded more than 60 inches (152 cm) of rain in southeast Texas over a four-day period.
In the small coastal town of Surfside Beach, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) south of Houston, Kirk Kloss, 59, and his wife Monica Kloss, 62, weathered the storm in their two-bedroom home, which had been around 6 years old. Sits 8 ft. (1.8 to 2.4 m) above ground on stilts.
“It was sad. I’ll never do it again,” said Kirk Kloss.
He said it rained all day on Monday and as the night progressed, the rain and winds got stronger.
At around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, strong winds blew out two windows in their house, causing it to rain and forcing the couple to constantly wipe down their floors. Klaus said the rain and winds created a storm about 2 feet in front of his house.
“It looked like a river here,” he said.
Nearby, Andrew Connor, 33, of Conroe, was not following the news at his family’s rented Surfside Beach vacation home and was unaware of the storm’s approach until it struck. A storm surge engulfed the beach house with water, prompting Connor to consider using a surfboard to carry his wife and six children to higher ground when the house flooded.
The sea never made its way through the door, but it did flood the family sport utility vehicle, Connor said.
“When I popped the hood, I had seashells and beach toys and all that stuff in my engine,” he said.
Meteorologists said Nichols is moving so slowly that several inches of rain will creep in as it creeps into Texas and southern Louisiana. This includes areas already affected by Hurricane Ida and areas devastated by Hurricane Laura last year. Parts of Louisiana have nowhere for the extra water to go, so it will flood, said hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy of the University of Miami.
“It’s stuck in a weak steering environment,” McNoldy said Tuesday. So while the storm itself may weaken “that won’t stop the rain from happening. Whether it’s a tropical storm, a tropical depression, or a tropical blizzard, there will still be a lot of rain and that’s not really good for that area.”
According to poweroutage.us, a website that tracks utility reports, more than half a million homes and businesses had lost power in Texas, but that number fell below 200,000 as of Tuesday afternoon. Utility officials said most of them were caused by strong winds as the storm lasted overnight. In Louisiana, about 89,000 customers were without power Tuesday afternoon, mostly in areas devastated by Hurricane Ida.
Nichols brought rain to the same area of Texas that was badly hit by Harvey, which was blamed for at least 68 deaths, including 36 in the Houston area. After Harvey, voters approved the issuance of $2.5 billion in bonds to fund flood control projects, including the widening of the bay. 181 projects designed to reduce the damage caused by future storms are in various stages of completion.
Hurricane researcher McNoldy said Nicholas is bringing in far less rain than Harvey.
“It’s not crazy amounts of rain. It’s nothing like Hurricane Harvey, with feet of rain,” McNoldy said. Harvey not only stayed in the same area for three days, it also moved slightly back into the Gulf of Mexico, allowing it to recharge with more water. Nichols wouldn’t do that, McNoldy said.
Nichols is expected to weaken into a tropical depression by Tuesday night, with parts of southern Louisiana receiving up to 20 inches (51 cm) of rain. Forecasters said heavy rainfall could also occur in southern Mississippi, southern Alabama and the western Florida panhandle.
On Tuesday, heavy rain from Nichols threw blue wires that covered roofs damaged by Ida throughout southern Louisiana.
Ida destroyed a building and left a hole in the roof of the main plant at Motivit Seafoods, a family-run oyster wholesaler in Houma, Louisiana. With Nichols raining on high-pressure processing equipment, owner Steven Voisin said he doesn’t know if the machines can be salvaged after the latest round of tropical weather.
“And many people in New Orleans from here have suffered this or more,” he said. “They’re not going to recover quickly or easily.”
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Sunday night before the storm hit a state.