Nicholas could bring “life-threatening” flash floods to deep South

Tropical Storm Nicholas could “cause life-threatening flash floods across the deep South during the next couple of days,” the National Hurricane Center says. The storm, which reached hurricane strength late Monday, made landfall along the central Texas coast early Tuesday before weakening into a tropical storm again.

Nicholas was about 30 miles south-southwest of Houston at 4 a.m. CDT and about 35 miles north-northwest of Freeport, Texas, and was moving north-northeast at 9 miles an hour. It had with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph after they dropped below the 74 mph threshold for a hurricane.

The storm is expected to move slowly northeast over Texas later Tuesday and farther east by Wednesday, over Louisiana. Little movement is likely on Thursday. The hurricane center said Nicholas should weaken some more today and is become a tropical depression by Wednesday.

But it’s still packing a drenching punch. It’s “expected to produce additional rainfall of 5 to 10 inches from the upper Texas coastal area into central to southern Louisiana, far southern Mississippi and far southern Alabama, with isolated storm totals of 20 inches across central to southern Louisiana,” the center says. “Life-threatening flash flooding impacts, especially in urbanized metropolitan areas, are possible across these regions.”

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Tropical Storm Nicholas over the Texas Gulf Coast early on September 14, 2021. NOAA

“There are people who do drive into high water and they sometimes lose their vehicles and even worse sometimes lose their lives,” Governor Greg Abbott said Monday.

The Gulf Coast is still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Ida. In southeast Louisiana, officials said more than 130,000 buildings were still without power as of Sunday. Ahead of Nicholas, Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency and urged residents to prepare for possible flooding and heavy rain.

“One of the things we have to guard against is dismissing the threat of this storm because it is not projected currently to reach hurricane strength before it makes landfall,” Edwards said Monday. “I know bracing for another storm while we are still responding to and trying to recover from Hurricane Ida is not the position we wanted to be in, but it is the situation we are prepared for.”

Nicholas is the 14th named storm of the season, a number usually hit later in mid-November.