Nicholas strengthened into a hurricane late Monday then made landfall along the central Texas coast early Tuesday, bringing with it rain so heavy it could produce “life-threatening” flash flooding, the National Hurricane Center said.
Nicholas was about 20 miles northeast of Matagorda, Texas, and about 25 miles west-southwest of Freeport, Texas, and was moving north-northeast at 10 miles an hour. It had with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, barely over the 74 mph threshold for a hurricane.
The storm’s center is forecast to move slowly over southeastern Texas Tuesday and Tuesday night, then over southwestern Louisiana on Wednesday. The storm will probably weaken as it moves inland.
Nicholas is expected to inundate some areas with 6 to 12 inches of rain and up to a foot-and-half in some spots, which could have “life-threatening flash flooding impacts, especially in urbanized metropolitan areas” across parts of the upper Texas Gulf coast into far southwestern Louisiana, the center said. Life-threatening storm surges are possible.
“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.