Nicholas gets stronger, threatens to hit Texas as hurricane

Monday, September 13, 2021

HOUSTON (AP) — Tropical Storm Nicholas gathered strength Monday and threatened to blow ashore in Texas as a hurricane that could bring up to 20 inches of rain to parts of the Gulf Coast, including the same area hit by Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and storm-battered Louisiana.

Nearly all of the state’s coastline was under a tropical storm warning that included potential flash floods and urban flooding. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said authorities placed rescue teams and resources in the Houston area and along the coast.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami said the system’s top sustained winds reached 60 mph (95 kph). If the winds hit 74 mph, the storm would become a Category 1 hurricane. It was moving north at 12 mph (19 kph) on a track to pass near the South Texas coast later in the day, then move onshore in the evening.

In flood-prone Houston, officials worried that heavy rain expected to arrive late Monday and early Tuesday could inundate streets and flood homes. Authorities deployed high-water rescue vehicles throughout the city and erected barricades at more than 40 locations that tend to flood, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

“This city is very resilient. We know what we need to do. We know about preparing,” said Turner, referencing four major flood events that have hit the Houston area in recent years, including devastating damage from Harvey.

Several schools in the Houston and Galveston areas were closed Monday because of the incoming storm. The Houston school district, the state’s largest, announced that classes would be canceled on Tuesday.

COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites were closed in Harris County, which includes Houston; Fort Bend County, southwest of Houston; and Nueces County, which includes Corpus Christi.

On Monday afternoon, Nicholas was centered roughly 70 miles (113 kilometers) southeast of Port Aransas, Texas, and 105 miles (169 kilometers) south of Port O’Connor, Texas. It was “moving erratically” just offshore, the hurricane center said.

A hurricane watch was issued from Port Aransas to San Luis Pass.

Eight to 16 inches (20 to 40 centimeters) of rain were expected along the middle and upper Texas coast, with isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches (50 centimeters) possible. Other parts of southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana could see 5 to 10 inches (12.5 to 25 centimeters) over the coming days.

“Listen to local weather alerts and heed local advisories about the right and safe thing to do, and you’ll make it through this storm just like you’ve had many other storms,” Abbott said during a news conference in Houston.

Nicholas was headed toward the same area of Texas that was hit hard by Harvey. That storm made landfall in the middle Texas coast then stalled for four days, dropping more than 60 inches (152 cm) of rain in parts of southeast Texas. Harvey was blamed for at least 68 deaths, including 36 in the Houston area.

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