Tropical Weather Nicholas

Nicholas hit Surfside Beach, Texas, as a Category 1 hurricane early Tuesday. It has since weakened to a tropical depression.

SURFSIDE BEACH, Texas (AP) — Tropical Storm Nicholas weakened to a tropical depression early Tuesday evening after slowing to a crawl over southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana but still drenching the area with flooding rains.

The downgrade came the same day Nicholas blew ashore as a Category 1 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. It was about 50 miles east of Houston, with maximum winds of 40 mph as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. However, weather radar showed that the heaviest rain was over southwestern Louisiana, well east of the storm’s center. The National Hurricane Center said heavy rainfall and a significant flash flood risk will continue along the Gulf Coast for the next couple days.

Galveston, Texas, 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 7 feet above the ground on stilts.

“It was bad. I won’t ever do it again,” Kirk Klaus 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’s sport utility vehicle, Connor said.

“When I popped the hood, I had seaweed and beach toys and all that stuff in my engine,” he said.

Meteorologists said Nicholas is moving so slowly it will dump more inches of rain as it crawls over Texas and southern Louisiana, including areas already struck by Hurricane Ida and devastated last year by Hurricane Laura. Parts of Louisiana are saturated with nowhere for the extra water to go, so it will flood, said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy: “Whether it’s a tropical storm, tropical depression or post-tropical blob, it’ll still rain a lot and that’s not really good for that area,” McNoldy said Tuesday.

More than a half-million homes and businesses had lost power in Texas, but that number dropped below 200,000 by late Tuesday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us. Most of those outages were caused by powerful winds as the storm moved through overnight, utility officials said. Across Louisiana, about 89,000 customers remained without power Tuesday afternoon.

Nicholas brought rain to the same area of Texas that was hit hard by Harvey, which was blamed for at least 68 deaths. After Harvey, voters approved the issuance of $2.5 billion in bonds to fund flood-control projects, including the widening of bayous. The 181 projects designed to mitigate damage from future storms are at different stages of completion.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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