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Nicholas deluges U.S. Gulf Coast with heavy rain, flooding

(C) Reuters. Local resident John Smith holds his 18-month-old son Owen as he stands near breaking waves on a pier ahead of the arrival of Tropical Storm Nicholas in Galveston, Texas, U.S., September 13, 2021. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

By Erwin Seba

TEXAS CITY, Texas (Reuters) -Tropical Storm Nicholas moved slowly across the Gulf Coast on Tuesday, drenching Texas and Louisiana with torrential rain, flooding streets and leaving hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses without power.

The damage from Nicholas comes just two weeks after Hurricane Ida killed more https://www.reuters.com/world/us/evacuees-urged-not-return-home-after-devastation-storm-ida-2021-09-01than 80 people across at least eight U.S. states and devastated communities in coastal Louisiana near New Orleans.

No deaths have been reported from Nicholas since the storm made landfall as a hurricane along the Texas Gulf Coast early on Tuesday, packing 75 mph (121 kph) winds.

Nicholas was expected to drop 1 to 3 inches (3 to 7 cm) of rain per hour across the region on Tuesday afternoon and evening, the National Weather Service said. Isolated areas of the Upper Texas Coast and southern Louisiana could see up to 5 inches.

Nicholas was blowing across the Houston area at about 1 p.m. Central Time (1800 GMT), heading east-northeast with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph), the National Hurricane Center said in a bulletin.

The storm, moving at 7 mph (11 kph), was expected to turn eastward later in the day, headed into Louisiana, Mississippi and the Florida panhandle by Thursday.

“It’s vital that we have as many resources as possible to respond to the forecasted heavy rainfall, potential for flash flooding & river flooding across Central & South Louisiana. I urge everyone to be prepared,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR).

By midday, more than 94,000 customers in Louisiana and 422,000 in Texas did not have power, according to a Reuters tally. More than 288,000 customers in the Houston area faced outages, utility CenterPoint Energy (NYSE:CNP) said.

CLASSES CANCELED

Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared states of emergency in 17 counties and three cities, putting boat and helicopter rescue teams on standby.

Patrice Johnson, 70, who lives in Texas City, Texas, about 40 miles southeast of Houston, said she was awake all night worrying about trees falling into her property.

“It was a little scary,” she told Reuters outside a local grocery store. “It was pretty windy. I was surprised how windy it was.”

Jeff Moore, 55, a homeowner in nearby Bayou Vista, said the water rose to his back deck, but that he never lost power, adding: “That would have been terrible.”

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said there were no injuries or fatalities reported in the city, where crews were cleaning up debris and restoring power. “It could have been a lot, a lot worse,” he said.

The Houston Independent School District and dozens of schools across Texas and Louisiana canceled classes. Houston resumed limited light rail and bus service on Tuesday.

Hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed at airports in Corpus Christi and Houston.

Galveston County spokesperson Tyler Drummond said officials were assessing the damage, but there were no reports of injuries. “I suspect what we will find is a lot of rooftop damage from sustained winds,” he said.

In Clear Lake Shores, a community of 1,000 people some 25 miles north of Galveston, footage on local KHOU-TV showed kayakers paddling along flooded streets, surveying the damage to businesses.

President Joe Biden declared an emergency for Louisiana and ordered federal assistance for local responders because of the effects of Nicholas, the White House said on Monday.

Although Hurricane Ida knocked a significant amount of refining capacity offline in the Gulf Coast earlier this month, Texas refineries remained operating as of early Tuesday.

Nicholas deluges U.S. Gulf Coast with heavy rain, flooding

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