Nicholas strengthened into a hurricane late Monday ahead of making landfall along the central Texas coast, the National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory. The storm is expected to hit the region with “life-threatening” rainfall, strong winds and storm surges.
Nicholas was about 20 miles south-southwest of Matagorda, Texas, and about 45 miles southwest of Freeport, Texas, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, the hurricane center said. The storm could produce 6 to 12 inches of rain across the Texas coast, with as much as 18 inches in isolated areas.
“Life-threatening flash flooding impacts, especially in urbanized metropolitan areas, are possible across portions of the upper Texas Gulf Coast into far southwestern Louisiana,” the hurricane center said.
After making landfall in the coming hours, the storm’s center will move over southeastern Texas on Tuesday and early Wednesday, before reaching southwestern Louisiana later Wednesday, forecasters said. The storm will likely weaken as it moves inland.
Southeast Texas, southern Louisiana and southern Mississippi could see 4 to 8 inches of rain. A hurricane warning is in effect from Port O’Connor to Freeport, Texas, and a storm surge warning is in effect from Sabine Pass to Rutherford Beach, Louisiana.
“There are people who do drive into high water and they sometimes lose their vehicles and even worse sometimes lose their lives,” Governor Greg Abbott said Monday.
The Gulf Coast is still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Ida. In southeast Louisiana, officials said more than 130,000 buildings are still without power as of Sunday. Ahead of Nicholas, Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency and urged residents to prepare for possible flooding and heavy rain.
“One of the things we have to guard against is dismissing the threat of this storm because it is not projected currently to reach hurricane strength before it makes landfall,” Edwards said Monday. “I know bracing for another storm while we are still responding to and trying to recover from Hurricane Ida is not the position we wanted to be in, but it is the situation we are prepared for.”
Nicholas is the 14th named storm of the season, a number usually hit later in mid-November.