Storm Nicholas has weakened to a tropical depression as it crawls from Texas into southern Louisiana on Wednesday, unleashing heavy rain across a landscape where Hurricane Ida recently destroyed thousands of rooftops, now covered with flimsy tarpaulins.
Forecasters said Nicholas would slow to a stall over central Louisiana through Thursday, with plenty of water still to dump east of its centre, drenching the Gulf Coast as far as the western Florida Panhandle.
Keep readinglist of 3 items
The damage from Nicholas comes just two weeks after Hurricane Ida killed more than 80 people across at least eight US states and devastated communities in coastal Louisiana near New Orleans.
In a tweet, the National Hurricane Center said “life-threatening flash flooding” will remain a threat over the next two days.
Southeast Louisiana faced the biggest flooding threat, and Governor John Bel Edwards warned people to take it seriously, even though Nicholas was no longer the hurricane that made landfall in Texas on Tuesday.
“This is a very serious storm, particularly in those areas that were so heavily impacted by Hurricane Ida,” Edwards said.
Governor Edwards noted that 95,000 electric customers were still without power more than two weeks after Ida hit. And he said the new storm could mean some who had regained power might lose it again. Homes already badly damaged by Ida were not yet repaired to the extent that they could withstand heavy rain, Edwards added.
Tropical Depression #Nicholas Advisory 14: Nicholas Moving Slowly Across Extreme Southwest Louisiana. Life-Threatening Flash Flooding Remains a Possibility Across Portions of the Central Gulf Coast Over the Next Couple of Days. https://t.co/VqHn0uj6EM
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 15, 2021
Energy companies working to restore power to remaining areas in the state said Wednesday that they were watching Nicholas closely but did not expect it to affect their restoration times.
Forecasters warned people along the central Gulf Coast that up to 50 centimetres (20 inches) are possible through Friday in places across a region still recovering from Category 4 hurricanes — Ida weeks ago and Laura last year.
Galveston, Texas, recorded nearly 35cm (14 inches) of rain from Nicholas, the 14th named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, while Houston reported more than 15cm (six inches).
The New Orleans office of the National Weather Service said late Tuesday that as much as 25cm (10 inches) of rain could fall in parts of Louisiana, with some areas seeing particularly intense periods of five to eight centimetres (two to three inches) of rainfall an hour.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared states of emergency in 17 counties and three cities, putting boat and helicopter rescue teams on standby.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said there were no injuries or fatalities reported in the city, where crews were cleaning up debris and restoring power. “It could have been a lot, a lot worse,” he said.
The Houston Independent School District and dozens of schools across Texas and Louisiana cancelled classes.
Hundreds of flights were cancelled or delayed at airports in Corpus Christi and Houston, Texas.
President Joe Biden declared an emergency for Louisiana and ordered federal assistance for local responders because of the effects of Nicholas, the White House said on Monday.