Tropical Storm Nicholas slowed over Houston on Tuesday after crashing into the Texas Gulf Coast as a category 1 hurricane and knocking out power to more than half a million residents. The National Hurricane Center said the storm could still produce "life-threatening flash floods" across the Deep South in the coming days.
Nicholas, the 14th named storm of this year's hurricane season, dumped more than nine inches of rain in Houston — and some areas could end up with more than twice that amount. More than six million people are under flash flood alerts from southeast Texas to the Florida Panhandle.
In 2017, Hurricane Harvey slammed the same area with a record 60 inches of rain. Louisiana is also recovering from Hurricane Ida's landfall two weeks ago. "One of the most distressing parts of this is the heaviest rain now is expected to fall in the areas that were most devastated by hurricane Ida," Governor John Bel Edwards said Tuesday.
Nicholas downgraded to tropical depression
Nicholas continues to weaken and has been downgraded to a tropical depression, according to the National Hurricane Center. As of 7 p.m. ET, the storm had maximum sustained winds of 35 mph.
Kayakers seen paddling down Texas street
Kayakers were seen paddling down a street in Clear Lake Shores, Texas.
Clear Lake Shores Mayor Kurt Otten told CBS affiliate KHOU-TV, "We had that type of winds going through and you hear all the howling of the sailboats it gets pretty spooky."
Strong waves damaged several piers in the city, KHOU reports.
Nicholas pales in comparison to Hurricane Harvey
Nicholas made landfall in coastal Texas early Tuesday morning, tracing the same path taken by 2017's Hurricane Harvey. But the storm's differences were in their size, location and speed, which allowed Harvey to do much more damage.
Harvey was a major hurricane and made landfall with a much more robust storm core and supportive environment. So when it moved into Texas and stalled, its core remained intact and dumped torrential rain for days, resulting in biblical totals.
On the contrary, Nicholas was poorly organized and lacked a supportive environment. So when Nicholas ran into dry air and hostile wind shear its circulation was easily toppled. The result is a very broad area of moderate rainfall amounts spread across the Gulf Coast from South Texas to the Florida panhandle.
While some spots will pick up one foot of rain, it pales in comparison to the few feet generated by Harvey.
Biden approves emergency aid for Louisiana
President Biden on Tuesday approved Louisiana's request for emergency aid in response to Nicholas. The president's action authorizes FEMA to coordinate "all disaster relief efforts, which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency."
Governor John Bel Edwards requested federal aid ahead of the storm and thanked Mr. Biden on Tuesday. "It's vital that we have as many resources as possible to respond to the forecasted heavy rainfall, potential for flash flooding and river flooding across central Louisiana and all of South Louisiana," Edwards said in a statement.
Photos show damage in San Luis Pass, Texas
Photographers with the Associated Press captured images of the storm's damage near San Luis Pass, Texas, and other coastal communities on Tuesday. The storm wrecked buildings and scattered debris along highways.
Nicholas knocks out power to half a million residents
Nicholas brought heavy rainfall and hurricane-force winds to Texas, knocking out power to more than half a million residents. That number improved to over 300,000 by Tuesday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us.
More than 74,000 customers were without power in Brazoria County, while Harris County experienced 68,000 outages.
Houston's mayor, Sylvester Turner, said Monday that workers were in place to assist with downed power lines and would try to restore power as quickly as possible after the storm passes the region. "I can assure you they have plenty of people that are out there deployed to get power restored," Turner told reporters.
In Louisiana, more than 100,000 people were without power across the state, according to poweroutage.us.
The storm could cause "life-threatening flash floods" across the Deep South
Nicholas could bring "life-threatening flash floods" across portions of the Deep South, the National Hurricane Center said Tuesday.
Forecasters expect the storm to produce another 5 to 10 inches of rain through Thursday in the upper Texas coast, along with southern parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and the western Florida Panhandle. They said southern Louisiana could see totals of 20 inches of rain in some isolated areas.
"Life-threatening flash flooding impacts, especially in urbanized metropolitan areas, are possible across these regions," the hurricane center said. "Widespread minor to isolated major river flooding is expected across portions of the upper Texas Gulf Coast and southern Louisiana and Mississippi."
Watches and warnings in effect
- A storm surge warning is in effect from High Island, Texas, to Sabine Pass.
- A tropical storm warning is in effect from High Island to Cameron, Louisiana.
- A storm surge watch is in effect from Sabine Pass to Cameron, Louisiana.
— The National Hurricane Center