In the hours leading up to Hurricane Nicholas’ arrival, forecasters and local officials warned people to prepare for a tropical storm — and to especially prepare for torrential rains and flooding.
But when Nicholas finally arrived in Galveston County early Tuesday morning, it wasn’t rain that caused the most damage.
The National Weather Service in League City reported winds as strong as 68 mph in Galveston County because of Nicholas. The strong wind swept across the island for hours, ripping down power lines, knocking over fences and signs and keeping restless residents from getting much sleep.
As for the rain, not much came. The weather service said from 4 inches to 9 inches fell on the county, with more rain occurring at points north.
The amount was a far cry from what county officials were warning about in the 48 hours before the storm, when they feared that as much as 20 inches could fall on coastal areas in a matter of hours. As a sign of how serious the threat was, the county positioned dozens of high-water rescue teams around the area.
None of those rescue crews were needed.
Nicholas ended up being less rainy and more windy, because it stayed on an eastern track longer than expected, said Tim Cady, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
“The main thing that happened was that the center of circulation took a slight eastward track prior to making landfall around Matagorda Bay,” Cady said. “That gave it some more time over water, and when a storm has more time over water, it’s going to have more time to intensify.”
The initial forecast wasn’t necessarily wrong, Cady said.
All day Monday, the weather service warned Nicholas could intensify to become a hurricane and bring the types of strong winds that come with it.
“There was always a possibility we were going to see some higher wind gusts with this storm,” Cady said. “There was a lot of uncertainty with that track.”
Galveston County officials said they had no criticisms of the weather service’s forecast.
“The weather service did an outstanding job,” said Tyler Drummond, Galveston County Judge Mark Henry’s chief of staff. “We kind of knew what we were going to be dealing with last night.”
If there’s one thing people should take from the storm, it’s that things can change quickly, Cady said.
“There are reason we tell people that when there are hazards in their area, they have to pay attention to the latest information,” Cady said. “Things can change and they do change.”