Tropical Storm Nicholas briefly strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane overnight just before it made landfall on the Texas coast around 2 a.m., and by Tuesday afternoon it was still battering Texas with high winds and drenching rains.
Nicholas smashed up barrier island towns like Surfside Beach, south of Galveston, flooded roads and yards, and knocked out power to more than 400,000 customers in Texas, according to the utility.
Although the center of the storm was crossing Houston on Tuesday, radar showed the worst rain and winds focused over the New Orleans area, which is still recovering from the devastating blow of Category 4 Hurricane Ida a few weeks ago. Nearly 100,000 customers remain without power in the state.
The National Weather Service predicts New Orleans could see 6 to 10 inches of rain this week, with Mississippi and the Panhandle also seeing up to 8 inches in some spots along the coast. The region is also at risk for life-threatening flash floods as Nicholas crawls along the coast.
As of 5 p.m. EDT, the storm’s maximum sustained winds had dropped to 40 mph, and tropical-storm-force winds still extended up to 140 miles from the center. Nicholas was moving east-northeast at 6 mph. It was 50 miles east of Houston, Texas and 45 miles west-southwest of Port Arthur.
The northeast coast of Texas and the southernmost coast of Louisiana remain under a storm surge warning, as Nicholas is expected to bring three to five feet of storm surge in places like Galveston Bay.
The tropical wave near Africa is on the verge of strengthening into a tropical depression in the next couple of days as it heads west across the Atlantic at 15 mph. As of the 2 p.m. update, forecasters gave it a 70% chance of developing in the next two days and a 90% chance within the next five.
Models show the system, if it forms, could reach the Lesser Antilles by early next week. But at that point, the system would face some harsher conditions that could slow its development.
The other disturbance, the low-pressure system expected to form north of the Bahamas, saw its chances of formation grow overnight. Forecasters said the system could possibly develop into a tropical depression this week and upped its chances of strengthening to 40% in the next two days and 60% in the next five. If it does form, forecasters expect it will keep moving north-northwest.
The next storm names are Odette and Peter.
Nicholas was the 19th storm to make landfall on the U.S. since May 2020. In this season alone, eight storms have made landfall.©2021 Miami Herald. Visit at miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.