Nicholas strengthens into Category 1 hurricane as Texas braces for heavy rainfall

Nicholas strengthens into Category 1 hurricane as Texas braces for heavy rainfall

Nicholas strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane late Monday as it churned along the Texas coast, bringing threats of up to 2 feet of rain, school closures and intense storm surge warnings. 

Nicholas, with sustained winds of 75 mph, was centered about 45 miles southwest of Freeport, Texas, as of late Monday, and was headed north-northwest as of 11 p.m. ET. Nicholas is on a forecast track to pass near Matagorda Bay in the upper Texas Gulf Coast later Monday, then move onshore along the Southeast Texas coast into Tuesday evening.

The storm was expected to weaken Tuesday and Wednesday as it moves over land.

A hurricane watch was in effect from Port Aransas to Sabine Pass, Texas. Most of the state’s coastline was under a tropical storm warning.

Meteorologists say Nicholas will be a rainmaker. National Hurricane Center senior specialist Eric Blake forecasts Nicholas to pound parts of the middle and upper Texas coastline with 8 to 16 inches of rain, and isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches are possible through the middle of the week. Across the rest of coastal Texas into southwest Louisiana, 5 to 10 inches is expected.

“Life-threatening flash and urban flooding impacts are possible, especially across portions of the upper Texas Gulf Coast,” the hurricane center said. 

River flooding was also a concern.

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Louisiana, where more than 100,000 homes and businesses remain without power two weeks after the devastation of Hurricane Ida, was under a state of emergency. In Texas, Houston could be blasted with 8 to 12 inches of rain, and nearby areas could see up to 24 inches, AccuWeather forecast.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said resources had been deployed in Houston and along the state’s entire Gulf Coast ahead of the storm.

“We urge you to listen to local weather alerts and heed local warnings from local officials,” Abbott said. “Be sure to avoid high water and the affects of flooding. And be safe.”

Nicholas is headed toward the same area of Texas that was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. That storm made landfall in the middle Texas coast, then stalled for four days, dropping more than 60 inches of rain in parts of southeast Texas. Harvey was blamed for at least 68 deaths.

Schools close ahead of storm

About a dozen public school systems near Galveston, Texas, shut down for the day Monday, and Galveston schools closed around noon. Several districts in the Houston area shut down or planned early releases. The Houston Independent School District tweeted that campuses and district offices would remain open Monday – but would be closed Tuesday. 

Texas A&M University-Kingsville canceled classes, and the school’s Corpus Christi campus switched to remote learning for the day. The University of Houston was open Monday but was monitoring the forecast for excessive rainfall and flooding. The status for Tuesday had not been determined, the school said.

Hurricane season has been among most active

Nicholas is the 14th named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. Only four other years since 1966 have had 14 or more named storms by Sept. 12: 2005, 2011, 2012 and 2020.

The National Hurricane Center is monitoring two other systems in the Atlantic; chances are increasing for the systems to develop into tropical depressions this week.

The next names in the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season will be Odette and Peter. 

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Track Tropical Storm Nicholas’ path 

Contributing: The Associated Press

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