- Hundreds of thousands of Texans lost power overnight.
- High water was reported around the Houston metro area
- Hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed at airports in Houston, Corpus Christi.
Nicholas strengthened into a hurricane right before it roared ashore near Matagorda, Texas, overnight. Winds gusted up to 95 mph there and video showed storm surge enveloping coastal roads.
But it was the flooding rainfall that had meteorologists most concerned. More than 11 inches of rain had already fallen across the far southeastern Houston metro area and rivers and creeks had started to rise.
Here are the latest updates as of Tuesday morning:
Hundreds of Thousands Lose Power
More than 350,000 customers had lost power in Texas as Nicholas pushed inland, according to poweroutage.us.
Most of the outages were in Brazoria and Matagorda counties, where Nicholas first came ashore, but outages were expected to mount as the storm tracked closer to the highly populated Houston metro.
High Water on Houston Area Roads
State of Emergency Declared in Texas
Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency for 17 counties, including the metropolitan Houston area and points along the state’s Gulf Coast.
“The state of Texas is working closely with officials on the ground to provide the resources and support needed to keep our communities safe, but it is up to all Texans in the path of this storm to take precautions, heed the guidance of officials, and remain vigilant as this severe weather moves through Texas,” Abbott said in a news release.
National Guard, Rescue Assets Standing By Across Southwest Louisiana
Eight high-water vehicles, 23 boats and 15 aircraft from the National Guard are positioned across southwestern Louisiana and into the central part of the state to respond after Nicholas passes, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a Monday afternoon briefing. Dozens of other rescue boats and vehicles are also on standby from other agencies.
More than 8,200 National Guard members, including 2,000 from other states, are already deployed to Hurricane Ida cleanup in the southeastern part of the state, Edwards said.
He asked President Joe Biden to issue a pre-landfall disaster declaration for Nicholas, which Edwards said would pave the way for federal assets assisting in Hurricane Ida recovery to move to other parts of the state if necessary.
And Edwards reminded residents to be prepared, not just for Nicholas but future storms as well.
“We are in the peak of hurricane season,” he said. “We certainly knew that other storms could be possible and of course there could be storms after Nicholas as well.”
Louisiana School Closures Announced
School facilties in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, will be closed Tuesday due to expected impacts from Nicholas, but students will continue classes via virtual instruction.
The parish, which which sits on the coast at the Texas state line, was hammered last year by Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Delta, which both made landfall there just 12 miles apart.
Closures and/or virtual learning were also announced in several other parishes, including Acadia, Jefferson Davis, St. Landry and Lafayette, KLAF-TV reported. All are in the southwest part of the state.
Houston Ship Channel Closed
The Houston ship channel is closed to traffic due to the impending storm, Henry de la Garza, a spokesman for the Houston Pilots, the agency of captains who steer ships through the waterway, told the Houston Chronicle. The 52-mile channel allows cargo ships to transit between Houston and the Gulf of Mexico.
Hundreds of Flights Canceled or Delayed
Officials at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental and William P. Hobby airports were monitoring the weather closely and advised travelers to check with their airlines to confirm flight status.
In Corpus Christi, United Airlines and Southwest both canceled all flights for 24 hours. The airlines waived change penalties for those airports and others in the potential path of the storm, including both Houston airports.
About 400 flights were canceled or delayed so far Monday in Corpus Christi and Houston, according to FlightAware.
Medical Facilities, COVID-19 Sites Close Ahead of Storm
All ambulatory care services locations operated by Harris Health System will close ahead of the arrival of heavy rain in Houston, the company announced Monday afternoon. That includes the Ambulatory Surgical Center at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, the Riverside Dialysis Center and all infusion and radiation therapy services. Hospital-based procedures are canceled for Tuesday.
Several COVID-19 testing, vaccination and treatment sites in Houston and surrounding areas are also suspending services due to the storm.
More Than 115 People Have Already Died in Flooding in the U.S. This Year
Potentially deadly flooding from Nicholas could add to what has already been a devastating year for flooding deaths in the U.S.
Flooding has killed 116 people in the United States so far in 2021, making this the first year since 2017 that number topped 100, according to a report by weather.com meteorologist Linda Lam.
Those victims include dozens of people killed when the remnants of Hurricane Ida dropped heavy rainfall across the northeast, as well more than 20 who died in historic flooding last month in Middle Tennessee.
An average of 85 people are killed by flooding annually in the United States, according to NOAA. That’s more than the average number of deaths per year from tornadoes (69) or hurricanes (46).
When it comes to weather, only heat claims more lives in an average year than flooding.
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Flooded Roads Reopen in Corpus Christi
Roads that flooded Monday morning due to heavy rain from Nicholas in Corpus Christi were all reopened by about 1 p.m. CDT, according to police.
Water and storm surge were reported in the parking lot at the Art Museum of South Texas, which sits on the shore of Corpus Christi Bay.
Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales, who oversees emergency management for the area, issued a local disaster declaration ahead of the storm.
Utility Crews Called Back From Louisiana
CenterPoint Energy crews that were working to help restore power after Hurricane Ida in Louisiana headed back to Houston Monday to help respond to Nicholas, the company said in a tweet.
CenterPoint provides electricity to more than 2.5 million customers, most of them in the Houston area, according to poweroutage.us.
Millions of people across southeastern Louisiana were left without power after Ida battered the region about two weeks ago. More than 123,000 power outages were still being reported there as of about noon CDT Monday.
Port of Houston to Shut Down Container Operations
Container shipping terminals at the Port of Houston are set to close Monday afternoon.
“Due to tropical storm weather, Port Houston Container terminals will cease ingate operations at 3 p.m. today and remain closed through tomorrow morning,” a tweet from the port said. “We’re monitoring conditions and will communicate about a possible noon Tuesday reopening by 6 p.m. today.”
Houston Mayor Warns Residents to Prepare for Heavy Rain
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner gave an update on preparations Monday morning.
“We are monitoring this storm very, very closely,” Turner said. “This is a storm still with some unpredictability but we know this is going to be primarily a rain event.”
He asked residents to stay home tonight and into tomorrow morning, at least.
“Finish up what you’ve got to do and just be home in a safe place later this evening,” Turner said.
He said the police, fire and public works departments were working to stage high-water response equipment around the city, and reminded drivers not to go around barricades or drive into flooded areas.
The water level in Lake Houston has been lowered by a foot and could be dropped more if needed, Sylvester added.
He said areas on the south side of Houston were especially being monitored closely, but flooding could happen anywhere and all residents need to remain alert to conditions.
“Mother Nature will do what Mother Nature does,” Sylvester said.
Between 8 to 16 inches of rain, and locally up to 20 inches, is forecast across parts of the middle and upper Texas coastal areas, according to NOAA. Five to 10 inches is possible across the rest of southeast Texas into southwest Louisiana.
Colleges Cancel Classes or Move to Remote Learning
Several college campuses have canceled classes or moved to remote learning for Monday and Tuesday, including the University of Houston, Texas A&M University campuses in Galveston and Corpus Christi, Del Mar College in Corpus Christi and Galveston College.
Flood Barriers in Place, Flights Canceled in Houston
Turner confirmed in a Monday morning tweet that flood barricades had been deployed in 43 locations around the city in preparation for expected flooding from Nicholas.
More than 100 flights into and out of William P. Hobby Airport were canceled Monday morning, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware.
Roads Flooded in Corpus Christi
Several roads were closed in Corpus Christi, Texas, Monday morning after floodwaters made travel impossible, according to the city’s police department. The area was being clobbered by heavy rain from Nicholas, which was located just off the coast to the south of the city.
Schools Closing Early in Texas
Numerous school districts along the Texas Gulf Coast announced closures on Monday due to the storm, according to KRIS-TV. The closures included the Corpus Christi Independent School District. Some districts announced they would hold classes Monday morning but would release students early because of the flooding risk.
(MORE: Nicholas Maps Tracker)
All Houston ISD schools remained open on Monday but will be closed Tuesday for both in-person and remote learning, and all district offices will be closed.
Other Houston-area districts announced closures or early dismissals Monday, and some also announced closings for Tuesday, according to KPRC-TV.
Reservoirs in Good Shape, Official Says
Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District, said in a tweet Sunday night that the Addicks and Barker reservoirs were empty ahead of the storm’s arrival. The two federally owned reservoirs located on the west side of Houston overflowed during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, flooding many homes in the area.
Officials Declare Emergencies, Issue Warnings to Residents
Elected officials were preparing residents for the storm’s expected impacts. In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency in preparation for another tropical system’s impacts on the state which is still recovering from Hurricane Ida.
“The most severe threat to Louisiana is in the southwest portion of the state, where recovery from Hurricane Laura and the May flooding is ongoing. In this area heavy rain and flash flooding are possible. However, it is also likely that all of south Louisiana will see heavy rain this week, including areas recently affected by Hurricane Ida,” said Edwards, according to the Associated Press.
Although southwestern Louisiana was spared the worst of Ida’s impacts, the region is still recovering from the numerous blows it took from the 2020 hurricane season, including Hurricane Laura. That storm devastated the city of Lake Charles, where Mayor Nic Hunter warned, “We are still a very battered city.”
“Hope and prayer is not a good game plan,” he told the AP, adding that the city is doing everything it can to prepare for yet another storm.
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent extra resources and rescue teams to the Houston area and the state’s coastline to prepare for its response to the storm.
“This is a storm that could leave heavy rain, as well as winds and probably flooding, in various different regions along the Gulf Coast. We urge you to listen to local weather alerts, heed local warnings,” he said in a video post.
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