Residents and business owners laid down sandbags and took other flood mitigation measures Monday, while city officials prepared for heavy rain as the first bands from Tropical Storm Nicholas began arriving on the island.
Although many islanders weren’t expecting severe effects from the storm, everyone was watching the rain forecasts, recalling Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and preparing for flooding. Weather trackers report the storm could bring as much as 20 inches of rain over Tuesday and Wednesday.
Galveston should be prepared for flooding, Mayor Craig Brown said. Hurricane Harvey in 2017 produced significant flooding with heavy rains that took almost everyone by surprise, Brown said.
“These storms take on so many different personalities,” Brown said. “We experienced Harvey and we saw that some of these most devastating storms are not wind driven or storm surge driven, but rain driven. So, that’s why we’re paying close attention to this.”
Some low-lying areas, such as the island’s downtown, West End and Harborside Drive could flood, Mark Morgan, chief of emergency management, said.
The city and state had staged high-water rescue vehicles around the city to deploy in case the need arose, he said. Tides will be high both Monday and Tuesday nights, so people should be alert to overnight flooding, he said.
By Monday morning, many downtown business operators already had laid sandbags or taped tarps over doors in hopes of keeping high water out of the buildings. Some moved furniture and merchandise atop tables or higher.
Crews removed hanging signs on The Strand, including from outside Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, 2225 Strand.
Owner Demas Caravageli said he expected about a foot of water in the shop’s downstairs. But the main area is raised and he and his employees have lifted up everything they want to keep out of water, he said.
“I’m not freaked out,” Caravageli said. “I would much rather be getting what’s predicted than a major hurricane. It’s just part of living on the island.”
Pat Lanier, who owns a Postoffice Street building, spent Monday morning taping up plastic tarps and laying hydrotubes, big plastic tubes filled with water meant to keep floodwater from getting in the building.
“We were hoping not to have to use them,” Lanier said. “I hope it misses us.”
The city began preparing over the weekend when crews began cleaning debris out of gutters and Galveston Island Beach Patrol moved trash cans and lifeguard towers off the beach.
The National Hurricane Center predicted Galveston would see the most significant effects of Tropical Storm Nicholas early Tuesday. As of Monday afternoon, the storm had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and was expected to drop at most 20 inches of rain.
Galveston ran city services Monday but will have to wait and evaluate the weather before resuming them Tuesday, Brown said.
Islander Clyde Longworth was taking concerns about flooding to heart. Longworth drove his truck Monday afternoon to the parking garage of The Spot, 3204 Seawall Blvd., to leave overnight.
Restaurant owner Dennis Byrd offered up his parking garage for people to keep their cars out of high water. Longworth drove his truck over as soon as he saw Byrd’s social media post because he’s worried about flooding, he said.
“I’m a block off Broadway,” Longworth said.
With a third-floor apartment, he should be fine in his unit, though he’ll know how strong the winds are, he said.
“You can feel the whole house sway,” Longworth said. “The house rocks you to sleep.”
Morgan also urged people to avoid driving quickly through high water, pushing the flood into businesses and homes.
“If they’re out and about, please don’t make a wake and put it into someone’s property,” Morgan said. “From this kind of a deal, the most damage comes from people just not paying attention.”
Wakes were on the minds of many residents and local businesses.
“They’re all in these big, four-wheel drive, lifted trucks,” Longwood said. “People that are on the edge wind up getting flooded that wouldn’t have.”
Natili Monsrud, owner of Star Drug Store, 510 23rd St., wasn’t very worried about rainwater reaching the restaurant but was concerned about wakes. Pointing across the street, Monsrud said she was relieved to see the city had put up barricades to place on streets in case of flooding.
“The worst part for everybody is the wake,” Monsrud said. “The barriers are so important to downtown streets.”
On the West End, many residents were worried about continued damage to the dune system and beach, District 6 Councilwoman Marie Robb said. A series of three storms last summer wiped out many West End dunes and damaged property.
“Most of our dunes are gone from the storms last year,” Robb said. “I’m concerned about the impact to houses.”
The city of Galveston issued a disaster declaration Sunday night in response to Tropical Storm Nicholas.