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Nicholas lingers in Louisiana, dumps rain as far as Florida

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 15, 2021

By Rebecca Santana and Kevin McGill Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS – Tropical Depression Nicholas hovered over Louisiana on Wednesday, raining on a region struggling to recover from Hurricane Ida and deluging coastal Mississippi, Alabama and northwest Florida.

Flash flood warnings were in effect Wednesday evening in parts of south Alabama and northwest Florida. And the National Weather Service said heavy rains were likely to last until Nicholas dissipates over Louisiana some time Friday. In Louisiana, the rainfall complicated an already difficult recovery at homes ripped open by Aug. 29 by Ida. Thousands remain without power in Texas and Louisiana.

“I’m not sure at this point what it looks like,” said Edith Anthony, whose home in LaPlace, a New Orleans suburb between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River, suffered roof damage while getting about 2 to 3 feet of floodwater two weeks ago.

They still don’t have electricity, and couldn’t arrange for a tarp to cover the roof before Nicholas blew in. She and her husband were staying in a Mobile, Alabama, hotel, preparing to return this weekend to take a look at what’s left of their home.

Nicholas was centered Wednesday afternoon about 75 miles south of Alexandria, Louisiana, creeping eastward at 2 mph. It was forecast to dump as much as 6 inches of rain from southeast Louisiana into the Florida Panhandle through Friday, with 10 inches possible in isolated areas.

“Life-threatening flash flooding impacts, especially in urban areas, remain a possibility in these areas,” forecasters said. The weather service reported that as much as 5 inches had fallen in Alabama’s Baldwin County and in northwest Florida as of Wednesday afternoon. News outlets reported flooded roads in Baldwin County and around Pensacola, Florida.

Nicholas dumped as much as 10 inches of rain on parts of Texas – and the weather service was checking reports of nearly 14 inches of rain in Galveston – after making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane, the 14th named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. Houston reported more than 6 inches. Parts of Louisiana received more than 10 inches of rain from the storm.

In Louisiana, the flash flood danger was expected to end Thursday, but the rain is forecast to linger for days.

“We’re going to be in a wet weather pattern well into next week,” said meteorologist Christopher Brannan at the National Weather Service. He said Nicholas, now a tropical depression, would likely stall over southwest Louisiana while it dissipates into a remnant low pressure system.

More than 112,000 electricity customers were still without power Wednesday morning in Texas, including 75,000 in the Houston area. At its peak, more than half a million homes and businesses were without power in Texas.

In Louisiana on Wednesday, 72,000 were still without power more than two weeks after Ida. Power had largely been restored in New Orleans, where the entire city had been blacked out by the storm. But problems remained, including piles of debris and garbage that officials were struggling to collect. Ida exacerbated an existing labor shortage that had slowed collection even before the storm. City officials announced Wednesday that they had opened a site where residents could take bagged household garbage and dispose of it free of charge.

Jerry Nappi, a spokesperson for Entergy Louisiana, said the utility company, which serves much of the state, did not expect Nicholas to lengthen restoration times.

Joe Ticheli, manager and CEO of South Louisiana Electric Cooperative Association, said the rain from Nicholas hadn’t affected their operations. The cooperative serves about 21,000 customers across five parishes including parts of the hard-hit Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

As of late Tuesday, he said power has been restored to about 80% of its customers with the remaining 20% mostly in the hardest-hit parts of southern Terrebonne parish. However, he noted, that the destruction in those areas is so “catastrophic” that even when power is restored houses and businesses won’t be able to receive it.

The worst of the weather largely spared the city of Lake Charles in southwest Louisiana – hit last year by hurricanes Laura and Delta – where city crews scoured the drainage system to keep it free from debris during Nicholas. Mayor Nic Hunter said he’s been worried about how his people are coping.

“With what people have gone through over the last 16 months here in Lake Charles, they are very, understandably, despondent, emotional. Any time we have even a hint of a weather event approaching, people get scared,” he said.

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