A day after Hurricane Nicholas blew through the area, bringing with it high wind, rain and fears of flooding, few areas in the county reported serious water damage.
Most of the damage was limited to widespread power outages, street flooding and downed trees, signs awnings and mangled buildings. The storm also mauled some buildings under construction.
In the northern part of the county, League City and Friendswood had no reports of flooded houses, a relief for officials and residents of those cities still recovering from catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
In League City, where 8,000 houses were flooded during Harvey, there were no reports of flooded houses despite the rising water in Clear Creek, Magnolia Creek and the surrounding bayous, Mayor Pat Hallisey said.
“I can’t even tell you what a relief that is,” he said.
Nicholas, which started as a tropical storm, grew into a hurricane at about 10 p.m. Monday. It brought significantly less rain but higher winds than forecast. Only about 5 inches to 9 inches of rain were measured on the mainland, and the island received about 4, according to the National Weather Service. In contrast, Harvey brought about 50 inches in some areas.
Most cities reported more damage from the high winds than flooding. Winds of more than 60 mph were reported in some areas, and trees and power lines throughout the county were knocked down, causing power outages.
“What caught us a little by surprise was the speed of the winds,” Galveston Mayor Craig Brown said. “They were a little heavier with more force than we thought.”
THE ABSENCE OF FLOODING
Hallisey credited the lack of flooding in League City to the drainage improvement projects that have been underway since Harvey. The projects were funded mainly by a $145 million general obligation bond voters approved in 2019.
Although Nicholas brought much less rain than Harvey, the lack of flooding proved the improvements over the past four years have helped, Hallisey said.
“I give all the credit to our city team that’s stayed on that,” he said.
Drainage improvement projects also prevented widespread flooding in Kemah, particularly in the Bay View area, Mayor Carl Joiner said.
“For the first time, that area drained well,” he said.
In Texas City, there were no reports of flooding, Bruce Clawson, emergency management and homeland security director for Texas City, said. Crews had pumped out the city’s canals in anticipation of large amounts of water, he said.
“We fared fairly well,” he said. “No flooding.”
Hitchcock also had very little flooding, Mayor Chris Armacost said. Although half the city lost power during the storm, most of it had been restored Monday, he said.
“I would say we were fortunate as we seem to have fared better than most,” he said.
But not all areas escaped the flooding.Palms RV Park, at 2705 Dickinson Ave. in Dickinson, sustained nearly a foot of water in some parts, manager Erin Solis said.
“We knew it was a pretty decent chance especially with all the ditches around us,” she said.
The water was about three concrete blocks high, meaning most of the RVs didn’t sustain damage, but people’s belongings were floating in the area, she said. The park planned to bring out a pump to try to remove the water that remained.
DAMAGE FROM WINDS
Most of the damage in the area came from the wind. Wind speeds topped 60 mph in some areas, according to the National Weather Service.
Most of the damage in La Marque came from felled trees and downed power lines, which crews were working to repair Tuesday morning, La Marque Mayor Keith Bell said.
In Santa Fe, most of the damage also came from power lines and trees that had been knocked down, Community Services Director Stacey Baker said.
“Anytime we get a good, hard rain, that’s just a given,” she said. “Especially since it’s been kind of wet and they tend to uproot when it gets saturated like that.”
Crews had been out Monday night into Tuesday morning responding to calls, Baker said.
Downed trees are a natural part of a hurricane, Clawson of Texas City said. The area had more power outages than initially anticipated, and at one point, 8,000 residents had been without power, he said.
“It was a heck of a night,” he said. “The wind really blew.”
A REAL STINK
Elad Amsalem, owner of Beach Break Surf Shop, 2402 Ave. Q, walked into his shop Tuesday morning to find two broken windows.
Glass shards were scattered on the floor and covered the wet T-shirts on the shelves. Displays of keychains and souvenirs were toppled over on the ground and receipts were scattered on the floor, blown by the wind.
“I didn’t think it would be that crazy,” Amsalem said.
Amsalem speculated a sign had blown off a nearby business and crashed into the window.
He has been in business for almost 30 years and had no damage during Hurricane Ike in 2008 or Harvey in 2017, he said.
As he spoke with The Daily News, Amsalem found a few leaks in the back room.
“All my stuff’s going to get wet,” he said as he pulled boxes out of the way. “It’s all T-shirts. It’s probably going to stink.”
HIT BY HIGH WATER
Despite the absence of heavy flooding, some coastal areas were hit by the storm surge. A storm-surge warning, which means there is a danger of life-threatening flooding within 36 hours, had been in place for Galveston Bay from Monday night into Tuesday morning, according to the National Weather Service.
Surges peaked at 5 feet during the storm, according to the weather service.
Kemah saw the most damage from the storm surges. One of the smaller buildings at the Kemah Boardwalk was destroyed, and there was a lot of pier damage in the city, Joiner said.
“The waves were just fierce last night,” he said.
One pier was destroyed by the rising water from the storm at Seaside Inn, 503 Bay Ave., owner Matt Wiggins said.
“We’re very lucky to have beautiful waterfront property that we pay high taxes for,” he said. “But this is one of the pains of it that you have to go fix occasionally.”
Multiple properties owned by Wiggins were damaged in the storm, some with interior damage caused by wind-blown water, he said. He expects repairs to take two to three weeks.
“This is an indication that God is still in charge and you can’t mess with Mother Nature,” he said.
LESS DAMAGE THAN EXPECTED
Overall, city officials expressed relief the damage around the county had not been worse.
“No loss of homes, which makes us really happy,” Hallisey said. “I hope it makes our citizens happy.”
Residents in Galveston also were relieved Tuesday. Although there was flooding in the usual low-lying areas, damage was relatively light, Brown said.
“I’m relieved it wasn’t more than it was,” Michael Ragsdale, owner of Big House Antiques, 2212 Mechanic St., said.
Ragsdale was helping retrieve a sign that blew away from a neighboring business, Nautical Antiques & Tropical Decor.
Joiner from Kemah also was relieved that the damage in the small town of 2,000 had not been worse.
“For what we went through, we have a sigh of relief,” he said.
Keri Heath contributed to this report.