Having lashed Texas with powerful wind gusts and heavy rain as a tropical storm, Nicholas weakened to a tropical depression on Tuesday night after sweeping across the Houston metropolitan area on a path toward Louisiana, battered just over two weeks ago by Hurricane Ida.
By 10 p.m. Central time on Tuesday, Nicholas was about 55 miles west of Lake Charles, La. Its maximum sustained winds had eased to 35 miles per hour, with higher gusts, as it moved east-northeast at six m.p.h.
The system is forecast to continue on that track through the night, veering farther east by Wednesday toward Louisiana, where up to 20 inches of rain could fall in isolated storms. Still, officials were mindful of the lessons of past storms.
“One of the most distressing parts of this is the heaviest rain now is expected to fall in areas that were most devastated by Hurricane Ida, down in southeast Louisiana,” Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon. “Take the threats from Nicholas very seriously.”
The center of the storm made landfall as a hurricane over the Gulf Coast of Texas shortly after 12:30 a.m. Central time on the eastern part of the Matagorda Peninsula, about 10 miles west-southwest of Sargent Beach, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Mr. Edwards said that in anticipation of possible building damage and flooding, more than 8,000 service members from the National Guard had been activated, as well as 80 high-water vehicles and 23 boats. On Monday night, President Biden approved the governor’s request for a federal emergency declaration for Tropical Storm Nicholas.
About 95,000 customers remained without power in the state because of Ida, Mr. Edwards said, and Nicholas has already added an additional 13,500 outages, many of which were in homes and businesses that had recently managed to restore power after Ida’s landfall.
Efforts to restore power “may actually be set back,” he said, because of the expected downpours in the coming days. There have been 29 deaths in the state related to Hurricane Ida, with 13 of those “attributable to the heat,” Mr. Edwards said.
The governor also warned of “marginal to severe risk of tornadoes.”
“These are warnings that will come quickly, so please be prepared, to the extent that you can,” he said, adding that Louisianans should be on the lookout for alerts that may come over their cellphones.
“Overall, the storm is weakening as it continues to push inland,” said Tim Cady, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Houston.
At a news conference on Tuesday morning, Lina Hidalgo, the top executive in Harris County, which includes Houston, said the worst of Nicholas appeared to be over and cleanup crews were beginning to assess damage.
Major flooding that had been the primary concern — and led to the closings of schools and businesses across the city — did not materialize, she said.
Debris littered streets in many neighborhoods, but by midmorning, many Houstonians had resumed usual routines, walking dogs or driving around.
No deaths or serious injuries from the storm had been reported, Ms. Hidalgo said, nor major damage.
Power outages in the Houston area accounted for some of the most visible damage, Mr. Cady said.
About 157,000 customers in Texas were without electricity by Tuesday afternoon, according to CenterPoint Energy, which said that extended power outages were likely in the Houston area.
Nicholas was expected to bring up to a foot of rain to parts of coastal Texas, the center said, raising concerns for flash flooding. More than a foot of rain — 13.96 inches — fell in Galveston, and some areas in Galveston County, which neighbors Houston, were inundated with up to six feet of water.
But some coastal communities had lighter rain and wind gusts as the morning wore on.
The threat of flash floods was expected to linger for several hours, especially in Louisiana, Mr. Cady said.
People are still recovering after Hurricane Ida battered the southern reaches of Louisiana two weeks ago.
The storm is forecast to move more slowly to the northeast later on Tuesday, and then to pivot eastward over Louisiana on Wednesday, unleashing up to 10 inches of rainfall from the upper Texas coastal area into central to southern Louisiana, and Southern Mississippi and Alabama, the center said.
Nicholas formed on Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico, the 14th named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season.
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It has been a dizzying couple of months for meteorologists as the arrival of peak hurricane season — August through November — led to a run of named storms that formed in quick succession, bringing stormy weather, flooding and damaging winds to parts of the United States and the Caribbean.
Tropical Storm Mindy hit the Florida Panhandle on Sept. 8, just hours after it formed in the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Larry, which formed on Sept. 1, strengthened to a Category 3 storm two days later and then weakened. It struck Canada as a Category 1 hurricane and caused widespread power outages in Newfoundland.
Ida battered Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane on Aug. 29 before its remnants brought deadly flooding to the New York area. Two other tropical storms, Julian and Kate, both fizzled out within a day at the same time.
Not long before them, in mid-August, Tropical Storm Fred made landfall in the Florida Panhandle and Hurricane Grace hit Haiti and Mexico. Tropical Storm Henri knocked out power and brought record rainfall to the Northeastern United States on Aug. 22.
The links between hurricanes and climate change are becoming more apparent. A warming planet can expect to see stronger hurricanes over time, and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms. But the overall number of storms could drop, because factors like stronger wind shear could keep weaker storms from forming.
Ana became the first named storm of the season on May 23, making this the seventh year in a row that a named storm developed in the Atlantic Ocean before the official start of the season on June 1.
In May, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast that there would be 13 to 20 named storms this year, six to 10 of which would be hurricanes, and three to five major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher in the Atlantic. In early August, in a midseason update to the forecast, they continued to warn that this year’s hurricane season would be an above-average one, suggesting a busy end to the season.
NOAA updated its forecast in early August, predicting 15 to 21 named storms, including seven to 10 hurricanes, by the end of the season on Nov. 30.
Last year, there were 30 named storms, including six major hurricanes, forcing meteorologists to exhaust the alphabet for the second time and move to using Greek letters.
It was the highest number of storms on record, surpassing the 28 from 2005, and included the second-highest number of hurricanes on record.
Jacey Fortin, J. David Goodman, Christine Hauser, Jesus Jiménez, Christopher Mele, Edgar Sandoval, Eduardo Medina and Daniel Victor contributed reporting.