Tropical Storm Nicholas slowed to a crawl over southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana on Tuesday after blowing ashore as a hurricane, knocking out power to a half-million homes and businesses and dumping more than a foot of rain along the same area swamped by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
Nicholas could potentially stall over storm-battered Louisiana and bring life-threatening floods across the Deep South over the coming days, forecasters said.
Nicholas made landfall early Tuesday on the eastern part of the Matagorda Peninsula and was soon downgraded to a tropical storm. It was about 50 miles east of Houston, with maximum winds of 40 mph as of 4 p.m. Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. However, weather radar showed the heaviest rain Tuesday afternoon was over southwestern Louisiana, well east of the storm center.
The storm is moving east-northeast at 6 mph. A tropical storm warning remained in effect from High Island to Cameron, Louisiana. The National Hurricane Center said the storm may continue to slow and even stall, and although its winds will gradually subside, heavy rainfall and a significant flash flood risk will continue along the Gulf Coast for the next couple days.
Galveston saw nearly 14 inches of rain from Nicholas, the 14th named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, while Houston reported more than 6 inches of rain. That’s a fraction of what fell during Harvey, which dumped more than 60 inches of rain in southeast Texas over a four-day period.
In the small coastal town of Surfside Beach about 65 miles south of Houston, Kirk Klaus, 59, and his wife Monica Klaus, 62, rode out the storm in their two-bedroom home, which sits about 6 to 8 feet above the ground on stilts.
“It was bad. I won’t ever do it again,” Kirk Klaus said.
He said it rained all day on Monday and, as the night progressed, the rainfall and winds got worse.
Sometime around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, the strong winds blew out two of his home’s windows, letting in rain and forcing the couple to continually mop their floors. Klaus said the rainfall and winds created a storm surge of about 2 feet in front of his home.
“It looked like a river out here,” he said.
Nearby, Andrew Connor, 33, of Conroe, had not been following the news at his family’s rented Surfside Beach vacation house and was unaware of the storm’s approach until it struck. The storm surge surrounded the beach house with water, prompting Connor to consider using surfboards to take his wife and six children to higher ground if the house flooded.
The sea never made its way through the door, but it did flood the family sport utility vehicle, Connor said.