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Hurricane Nicholas Makes Landfall In Texas. Residents Are Bracing For Possible Floods

Celbing Diaz fishes ahead of the Tropical Storm Nicholas on September 13, 2021 in Galveston, Texas, on Monday before the storm grew to a hurricane overnight on Tuesday.
Celbing Diaz fishes ahead of the Tropical Storm Nicholas on September 13, 2021 in Galveston, Texas, on Monday before the storm grew to a hurricane overnight on Tuesday.

Updated September 14, 2021 at 4:55 AM ET

Hurricane Nicholas made landfall along the Texas coast early Tuesday morning, bringing with it heavy wind, rain and dangerous storm surge threats.

The Category 1 hurricane made landfall in Texas just before 2 a.m. ET along the Matagorda Peninsula, a strip of land just off the southeastern coast of Texas, according to the National Hurricane Center.

A hurricane warning was in effect overnight from Port O'Connor to Freeport in Texas, and a hurricane watch was issued for Freeport to San Luis Pass, a narrow channel between Galveston Island and the Texas mainland. The Houston metro area, which was soaked by Hurricane Harvey four years ago and again by Tropical Storm Imelda in 2019, is on alert for damaging floods, though Nicholas has been downgraded to a tropical storm.

The Houston Independent School District canceled classes for Tuesday ahead of the storm's arrival.

More than 150,000 customers lost power in Texas as the storm made landfall overnight.

In Louisiana, where thousands of residents are still reeling from Hurricane Ida, people were preparing to be hit by Nicholas' potentially devastating wind and rainfall.

Alerts for storm surge watches and warnings were in effect along the Texas coast, as well as parts of Louisiana.

The storm is bringing possible "life-threatening flash flooding impacts, especially in highly urbanized metropolitan areas" to portions of the upper Texas Gulf Coast and far southwestern Louisiana, the National Weather Service said.

Nicholas is expected to stick around the region for several days, according to officials monitoring the storm.

"It will be a very slow moving storm across the state of Texas that will linger for several days and will drop a tremendous amount of rainwater," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday. "People who are in the region affected by the storm need to be prepared for extreme high water events."

Abbott signed a disaster declaration for 17 counties ahead of the storm to ready resources for affected areas.

What to expect from Nicholas

The center of the storm is expected to weaken over the next couple of days as it moves slowly over southeastern Texas throughout the day on Tuesday and over southwestern Louisiana on Wednesday.

Maximum sustained winds remained near 75 mph as Nicholas made its way inland overnight and into the early morning.

Rainfall forecast for Nicholas
/ DOC/NOAA/NWS/NCEP/WPC
The rainfall forecast for Tropical Storm Nicholas. The storm may trigger "considerable flash and urban flooding," the National Hurricane Center says.

Nicholas may trigger "considerable flash and urban flooding" as it brings total rainfall of 6 to 12 inches, with isolated amounts of up to 18 inches, across coastal areas in middle and upper Texas over several days this week, the center said.

For a broader section of the coast, including southwest Louisiana, people should expect 4 to 8 inches of rain, the agency said.

"This is a life-threatening situation," the hurricane center said, urging people in areas under broad storm surge warnings to act to protect life and property and to obey any local evacuation orders.

Flash flood risks force schools to cancel classes

Houston took steps to try to minimize the storm's disruptions and risks, erecting dozens of barricades and readying high-water rescue vehicles, according to Houston Public Media.

Tropical Storm Nicholas filled a large portion of the Gulf of Mexico on Monday morning as seen in this satellite photo taken around sunrise.
/ NOAA/NESDIS/STAR GOES-East
Nicholas fills a large portion of the Gulf of Mexico on Monday morning as seen in this satellite image taken around sunrise.

"We are monitoring this storm very, very closely," Mayor Sylvester Turner said, according to the station.

"We are beginning to see high water locations on freeways," the city of Houston announced on Twitter.

Nicholas is wiggling and wobbling, forecaster says

As of Monday morning, the storm was moving both slowly and erratically, the hurricane center said.

"It's wiggling or wobbling all over the place," National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said in a briefing about the storm.

Nicholas is expected to move along the coast in the western Gulf of Mexico before making landfall late Monday afternoon or evening.
/ NOAA/Esri/HERE/Garmin/Earthstar Geographics
Nicholas is expected to move along the coast in the western Gulf of Mexico before making landfall late Monday afternoon or evening. The colors in this map refer to tropical storm-force winds.

Nicholas is also lopsided: While its center is relatively close to the shore, the bulk of the storm's winds remain far out over the gulf, according to satellite images from Monday morning. And because the system is pushing a massive amount of water far ahead of it to the north, rain bands were already hitting the coasts in Texas and Louisiana early Monday.

Forecasters expect Nicholas to gain a bit of forward speed and move more to the north — a pivot that will largely determine which areas are hit the hardest.

Climate change has been linked to the more frequent occurrence of intense hurricanes. In addition to strong winds, many of the most dangerous storms in recent years have brought tremendous amounts of rain – creating new threats to people and infrastructure far inland from the coast.

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