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Officials warn of Tropical Storm Nicholas’ potential ‘life-threatening flash floods’

Road closures underway in eastern Texas

(Photo: NOAA)

Nicholas made landfall early Tuesday morning along the Texas coast as a Category 1 hurricane, pummeling eastern portions of the state with fierce winds, heavy rain and flooding.

People from San Luis Pass to High Island, including Galveston Bay, face a possible “life-threatening storm surge” of up to 5 feet as Nicholas bears 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, at about 1:30 a.m. ET Tuesday. At landfall, the hurricane was packing 75 mph sustained winds with higher gusts. One of the highest wind speeds recorded so far from Nicholas was 78 mph. According to the National Weather Service, it occurred near Magnolia Beach.

Hours after landfall, the NHC downgraded Nicholas to a tropical storm as sustained winds dropped to 70 mph. Minimum hurricane strength is 74 mph.

As of 8 a.m. ET Tuesday, Nicholas was centered about 15 miles southwest of Houston, with winds of 60 mph.

The NHC expects Nicholas to move slowly through the lower Mississippi Valley over the next two to three days, drenching areas from the upper Texas coast to southern Louisiana with another 5 to 10 inches of rain. This could produce storm totals of 10 to 20 inches. The NWS said Galveston had already received nearly 14 inches as 6 a.m. ET Monday.

The NWS has flash flood watches posted from Beaumont, Texas, to Lake Charles, Alexandria, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana, as well as Biloxi, Gulfport and Pascagoula, Mississippi, and Mobile, Alabama. Widespread minor flooding to isolated major river flooding is likely in these areas.

(Map: FreightWaves SONAR Critical Events. Tropical Storm Nicholas, Sep. 14, 2021, 8 a.m. ET. To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.)

Sections of Interstate 45 are already closed from League City to Galveston due to flooding, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Portions of state and local roads are also closed because of flooding or strong winds.

Port Houston container terminals remain closed through Tuesday morning with tropical-storm-force winds continuing in the Houston metropolitan area.

Related: Port Houston to close terminals to prepare for Tropical Storm Nicholas

As of 7:30 a.m. ET Monday, almost 360,000 customers had no electricity, based on reports from PowerOutage.US. Most of these outages were in the Houston area, with more likely throughout the day across the storm’s impact region.

Later in the week, rain from Nicholas will spread eastward across the Southeast and the Tennessee Valley, where localized flash flooding will be possible.

Tropical alerts

• Storm surge warning from San Luis Pass to Sabine Pass, Texas, including Galveston Bay.
• Tropical storm warning from San Luis Pass to Cameron, Louisiana.
• Storm surge watch from Sabine Pass to Rutherford Beach, Louisiana.

Major lanes of concern

• Interstate 10 from Houston to Mobile.
• Interstate 12 from Baton Rouge, to Slidell, Louisiana.
• Interstate 49 from Alexandria to Lafayette, Louisiana.
• Interstate 59 from Poplarville, Louisiana, to Slidell.
• Interstate 65 in the Mobile metropolitan area.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.