Hurricane battered Louisiana braces for Nicholas drenching

Gov. Edwards warned residents to expect flash flooding and to take the storm seriously

Published - September 15, 2021 12:16 pm IST - POINTE-AUX-CHENES

Storm clouds from approaching Tropical Storm Nicholas are seen behind homes destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Pointe-aux-Chenes, La., on Sept. 14, 2021.

Storm clouds from approaching Tropical Storm Nicholas are seen behind homes destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Pointe-aux-Chenes, La., on Sept. 14, 2021.

Residents of southern Louisiana, still recovering from Hurricane Ida just weeks ago, braced themselves on Wednesday for expected heavy rains as Hurricane Nicholas crawls across parts of the state from Texas.

Nicholas made landfall early Tuesday on the Texas coast, dumping heavy rain even though it was quickly downgraded to a tropical storm and later a depression. But forecasters said Nicholas could stall over storm-battered Louisiana and spread life-threatening floods across the Deep South over the coming days.

In a state still recovering from Category 4 storm Ida weeks ago — as well as Category 4 Laura a year ago — Nicholas and its potentially heavy rain bands were unwelcome news.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned residents to expect flash flooding, and to take the storm seriously despite its lack of hurricane status.

“This is a very serious storm, particularly in those areas that were so heavily impacted by Hurricane Ida,” Gov. Edwards said.

Galveston, Texas, recorded nearly 14 inches (35 centimeters) of rain from Nicholas, the 14th named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, while Houston reported more than 6 inches (15 centimeters). The New Orleans office of the National Weather Service said late Tuesday that as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain could fall in parts of Louisiana, with some areas seeing particularly intense periods of 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 centimeters) of rainfall per hour.

Gov. Edwards said Nicholas will complicate an already difficult recovery from Ida in southeast Louisiana. He noted that 95,000 electric customers were still without power, more than two weeks after Ida hit. And he said the new storm could mean, some who had regained power might lose it again. Homes badly damaged by Ida already, were not yet repaired to the extent that they could withstand heavy rain, he added.

Energy companies working to restore power to remaining areas in the state said on Wednesday that they were watching Nicholas closely but didn't expect it to affect their restoration times.

Joe Ticheli, manager and CEO of South Louisiana Electric Cooperative Association, said he did not anticipate that Nicholas would significantly slow its work to restore power after Ida. He said rain — the main threat from Nicholas — really doesn’t stop the linemen who are generally outfitted with slicker suits and grit, he said.

In the weather-battered city of Lake Charles, in southwestern Louisiana, Mayor Nic Hunter said ahead of Nicholas that the city prepositioned assets should they be needed, and city crews scoured the drainage system to keep it free from debris that might cause clogs and flooding.

Lake Charles was hammered by Hurricane Laura last year, a Category 4 storm that caused substantial structural damage across the city of nearly 80,000 residents.

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