Nicholas now a tropical storm after making landfall in Texas as Category 1 hurricane
(CNN) — Nicholas made landfall Tuesday morning along the Texas coast as a Category 1 hurricane, threatening to pummel the state with fierce winds, heavy rain and possible flooding.
Residents along the coast from Port Aransas to Port O’Connor face a life-threatening storm surge of up to 5 feet as Nicholas barrels down, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Nicholas came ashore near the eastern part of the Matagorda Peninsula, about 10 miles west-southwest of Sargent Beach, Texas, about 1:30 a.m. ET Tuesday, packing 75 mph winds.
Hours after landfall, it was downgraded to a tropical storm with winds of 70 mph.
The storm is expected to inundate the region with 6 to 12 inches of rain and isolated totals of 18 inches as it sweeps northeast across the Gulf Coast. Already, it has left more than 130,000 customers without power in Texas, according to PowerOutage.US.
In Houston, emergency officials said high winds and heavy rain were expected and asked residents not to remove or go around the road blocks that are in place for safety.
The Houston area was devastated four years ago by Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that claimed the lives of 68 people — the highest hurricane death toll in the state since 1919.
On Monday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an emergency declaration, warning residents to be prepared for the upcoming “substantial water event.”
Abbott said that people needed to be prepared for “extreme high-water events, including flooding and potential damage caused by the rainfall.” He added that there was also the possibility that the system could spawn tornadoes.
The storm is expected to move over southeastern Texas later Tuesday before making its way to southwestern Louisiana later Wednesday, during which it is expected to weaken, the NHC said.
State prepares for heavy downpour
In Houston, city officials and first responders were preparing for significant amounts of rain and wind.
“We are expecting anywhere between four to seven inches of rain overnight as well as some wind, which could lead to some power outages,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
More than 330 flights either into or out of Houston’s William P. Hobby and George Bush Intercontinental airports have already been canceled for Tuesday, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware. All Port Houston terminals will be closed Tuesday morning in anticipation of the storm, according to the port’s official Twitter account.
The Houston Independent School District and Galveston Independent School District announced Monday that schools in the area would be closed Tuesday.
While the state prepared for the storm, Abbott said he had been in touch with officials along the Gulf Coast “to make sure that we’re working collaboratively, to make sure that at the local level, we will be prepared for whatever the storm may bring.”
Abbott said the state would make it through the storm as it had many others, but cautioned Texas to heed local advisories.
“It seems like every time we have heavy rain in the Houston-area there are people who do drive into high water, and they sometimes lose their vehicles, and even worse, sometimes lose their lives. Your life is the most important thing that you have,” Abbott said. “Be cautious as you travel about the Houston-area in the Harris County-area for the next few days.”
Louisiana recovery efforts threatened
A state of emergency has also been declared in Louisiana, which is still recovering from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Ida’s landfall two weeks ago.
“The most severe threat to Louisiana is in the Southwest portion of the state, where recovery from Hurricane Laura and the May flooding is ongoing,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “In this area, heavy rain and flash flooding are possible. However, it is also likely that all of South Louisiana will see heavy rain this week, including areas recently affected by Hurricane Ida.”
Ida’s death toll in the state increased to 28, as the East Baton Rouge parish coroner confirmed two additional storm-related deaths, according to a tweet Monday from the Louisiana Department of Health.
LDH reported the deaths of a 69-year-old man and an 85-year-old woman, who both died due to excessive heat during an extended power outage.
Continued restoration efforts following Ida could be slowed and some of what has already been restored could be lost for some period of time due to Nicholas, Edwards said in a briefing Monday.
As of early Tuesday morning, more than 94,000 customers in Louisiana remained without power, according to PowerOutage.US.
With respect to preparations for Nicholas, the National Guard will stage 80 high water vehicles, 23 boats, and 15 aircraft across Southwest Louisiana and into central Louisiana by the end of the day and will remain postured for response in Southeast Louisiana if necessary, Edwards said.