Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Slow-moving Tropical Storm Nicholas inundates the Gulf Coast

by Juan A. Lozano | The Associated Press

Surfside Beach, Texas — Tropical Storm Nicolas slowed to a crawl as a hurricane over southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana on Tuesday, knocking out power to a half-million homes and businesses and along the same area. Dumped more than a foot of rain. by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Forecasters said Nichols could potentially stop over hurricane-ravaged Louisiana and bring deadly flooding to the Deep South in the coming days.

Nichols made landfall on the eastern side of the Matagorda peninsula early Tuesday and was soon intensified into a tropical storm. According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, it was about 50 miles east of Houston, with maximum winds of 40 mph at 4 a.m. CDT Tuesday. However, weather radar showed that the heaviest rain Tuesday afternoon occurred in southwestern Louisiana, east of the storm’s center.

The storm is moving to the east-northeast at 6 mph. A Tropical Storm Warning was in effect from High Island, Texas to Cameron, Louisiana. The National Hurricane Center said the storm may slow and even stop, and although its winds will gradually ease, there is a risk of heavy rain and a significant flash flooding along the Gulf Coast for the next few days. will continue.

Galveston, Texas saw nearly 14 inches of rain from Nichols, the 14th named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, while Houston reported more than 6 inches of rain. That’s a fraction of the fallout during Harvey, which recorded more than 60 inches of rain in southeast Texas over a four-day period.

In the small coastal town of Surfside Beach about 65 miles south of Houston, Kirk Kloss, 59, and his wife Monica Kloss, 62, came out of the storm in their two-bedroom home, which is about 6 to 8 feet above the ground. is above. stilts

“It was sad. I’ll never do it again,” said Kirk Kloss.

He said it rained all day on Monday and as the night progressed, the rain and winds got stronger.

At around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, strong winds blew out two windows in their house, causing it to rain and forcing the couple to constantly wipe down their floors. Klaus said the rain and winds created a storm about 2 feet in front of his house.

“It looked like a river here,” he said.

Nearby, Andrew Connor, 33, of Conroe, was not following the news at his family’s rented Surfside Beach vacation home and was unaware of the storm’s approach until it struck. A storm surge engulfed the beach house with water, prompting Connor to consider using a surfboard to carry his wife and six children to higher ground when the house flooded.

The sea never made its way through the door, but it did flood the family sport utility vehicle, Connor said.

“When I popped the hood, I had seashells and beach toys and all that stuff in my engine,” he said.

Meteorologists said Nichols is moving so slowly that several inches of rain will creep in as it creeps into Texas and southern Louisiana. This includes areas already affected by Hurricane Ida and areas devastated by Hurricane Laura last year. Parts of Louisiana have nowhere for the extra water to go, so it will flood, said hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy of the University of Miami.

“It’s stuck in a weak steering environment,” McNoldy said Tuesday. So while the storm itself may weaken “that won’t stop the rain from happening. Whether it’s a tropical storm, a tropical depression, or a tropical blizzard, there will still be a lot of rain and that’s not really good for that area.”

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The storm was moving toward the east-northeast at 7 mph, and the center of Nichols was expected to move slowly over southeastern Texas on Tuesday and southwest Louisiana on Wednesday. More than half a million homes and businesses had lost power in Texas, but that number had dropped to about 375,000 as of Tuesday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us, a website that tracks utility reports. Utility officials said most of them were caused by strong winds as the storm lasted overnight. In Louisiana, nearly 100,000 customers were without power on Tuesday afternoon.

Nichols brought rain to the same area of ​​Texas that was badly hit by Harvey, which was blamed for at least 68 deaths, including 36 in the Houston area. After Harvey, voters approved the issuance of $2.5 billion in bonds to fund flood control projects, including the widening of the bay. 181 projects designed to reduce the damage caused by future storms are in various stages of completion.

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Hurricane researcher McNoldy said Nicholas is bringing in far less rain than Harvey.

“It’s not crazy amounts of rain. It’s nothing like Hurricane Harvey, with feet of rain,” McNoldy said. Harvey not only stayed in the same area for three days, it also moved slightly back into the Gulf of Mexico, allowing it to recharge with more water. Nichols wouldn’t do that, McNoldy said.

Nichols, expected to weaken into a tropical depression by Tuesday night, could receive up to 20 inches of rain over parts of southern Louisiana. Forecasters said heavy rainfall could also occur in southern Mississippi, southern Alabama and the western Florida panhandle.

On Tuesday, heavy rain from Nichols threw blue wires that covered roofs damaged by Ida throughout southern Louisiana.

Ida destroyed a building and left a hole in the roof of the main plant at Motivit Seafoods, a family-run oyster wholesaler in Houma, Louisiana. With Nichols raining on high-pressure processing equipment, owner Steven Voisin said he doesn’t know if the machines can be salvaged after the latest round of tropical weather.

“And many people in New Orleans from here have suffered this or more,” he said. “They’re not going to recover quickly or easily.”

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Sunday night before the storm hit a state.

In southwestern Louisiana, Lake Charles Mayor Nick Hunter said Monday that crews were scouring the drainage system to keep it free of debris that could cause flooding and flooding. But after several natural calamities in such a short span of time, he said that he is concerned about the state of mind of the residents.

Last year, Category 4 Hurricane Laura caused substantial structural damage in a city of about 80,000 residents. Weeks later, Hurricane Delta passed through the same area. Freezing temperatures in January ripped pipes across the city, and May’s thunderstorms swept away homes and businesses again. Some residents have had to close homes several times a year.

“What people have gone through in the last 16 months in Lake Charles is very, understandable, disappointed, emotional. Whenever we get a sign of a weather event, people get scared,” he said .

Associated Press writer Jill Bled in Little Rock, Arkansas; Jay Reeves in Houma, Louisiana; Rebecca Santana in New Orleans; Julie Walker in New York and AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.

Slow-moving Tropical Storm Nicholas inundates the Gulf Coast
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