Heavy rain lashed Texas and Louisiana on Tuesday as Hurricane Nicholas weakened into a tropical storm, threatening widespread flooding and power loss as it swept across the US Gulf Coast. It is the second major hurricane to threaten the region in recent weeks, when Hurricane Ida killed more than two dozen people in August and devastated communities in Louisiana near New Orleans.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Nichols, which reached hurricane strength before weakening, should weaken further and become a depression by Wednesday. But it could still cause deadly flooding in the Deep South over the next few days, the agency warned.
Nichols was about 30 miles (50 km) southwest of Houston, Texas at 5 a.m. central time, moving to the northeast with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph (110 kph) was, the NHC said in a bulletin, hours after it hit the Texas coast.
The White House said President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency for Louisiana and ordered federal aid for local responders because of Nichols’ effects.
Nichols could also shut down power and hinder restoration efforts after Hurricane Ida went out of power in Louisiana. As of early Tuesday, more than 95,000 people in Louisiana and 345,000 in Texas suffered outages, the website PowerOutage.us showed.
“This will be a very slow-moving storm in the state of Texas that will last for several days and cause heavy rain,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on Monday. Abbott declared a state of emergency in 17 counties and three cities, with boat and helicopter rescue teams deployed or kept on standby. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner urged the city’s nearly 2.3 million residents to stay off roads and highways, citing flood warnings. “Take things seriously and prepare,” Turner told a news conference. “This is primarily a rain event and we don’t know how much rain we will get.”
The Houston Independent School District canceled Tuesday’s classes, while dozens of schools in both states remained closed on Monday. Houston closed light rail and bus services on Monday evening. Hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed at airports in Corpus Christi and Houston.
Houston, the fourth most populous US city, was devastated in 2017 when Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane, slammed Texas, dropping 40 inches (102 cm) of rain in some areas and killing more than 100 people. Went.
National Weather Service models have estimated total rainfall from Nicholls to 16 inches (41 cm) in coastal parts of Texas to 20 inches (51 cm) in some places. Its northeast sweep was expected to bring 10 inches (25 cm) of rain to parts of south-central Louisiana and southern Mississippi. The National Weather Service issued hurricane, flood and tropical storm warnings and watches throughout the region, calling it a “life-threatening condition”.
“We want to make sure no one gets hit by this storm,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said on Monday. Edwards cautioned against flash floods caused by heavy rains as the drainage system was still clogged with debris from Ida and other storms.
Royal Dutch Shell on Monday began laying off employees from an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico as firms batted against the winds.