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Tropical Storm Nicholas In Louisiana: Heavy Rains, Flooding Threaten Areas Hit By Ida

National Hurricane Center

Louisiana public officials are closely monitoring Tropical Storm Nicholas as the system continues its slow march along the Gulf after making landfall on the central Texas coast early Tuesday morning.

Tropical Storm Nicholas briefly strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane Monday night but lost strength after making landfall on the Texas coast and was downgraded to a tropical storm.

But the storm is hugging the coastline as it continues on its northeastern track, allowing its stronger east side to hover over the gulf, buoying the system’s strength and replenishing its rain clouds.

National Hurricane Center

In its 4 p.m. advisory, forecasters with the National Hurricane Center said the system should start moving over Louisiana Wednesday, possibly as a tropical depression. Its sustained winds reached 40 mph and were recorded in Lake Charles, but winds are expected to weaken as Nicholas shifts further east through Louisiana.

National Hurricane Center

Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center said much of the Gulf Coast region will see 5 to 10 inches of rain, including Louisiana, with isolated portions of the area experiencing as much as 20 inches of rain. In a Tuesday press conference, Gov. John Bel Edwards said the southeast part of Louisiana, where many residents' homes still sit damaged from Ida without repairs or temporary tarps, should expect to see plenty of heavy rain

“One of the most distressing parts of this is the heaviest rain is now expected to fall in areas that were most devastated by Hurricane Ida," Edwards said.

The greater New Orleans area is forecast to receive 6 to 10 inches of rain, and Baton Rouge can expect 4 to 6 inches from the storm. According to the NHC, nearly all of south Louisiana is facing “moderate” flash flood risk from Tropical Storm Nicholas and was put under a flash flood watch through 7 a.m. Thursday.

National Hurricane Center

Edwards added that the rains, and the risk for flash flooding, will persist through the weekend.

State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter urged people not to drive when floodwaters rise over roadways. Four out of five deaths during the May 17 flooding event were of drivers who encountered high water, Kanter said.

“Only travel by road if it’s absolutely necessary,” Kanter said. “If there is any way to avoid traveling by car over the next few days, we ask you to do that.”

By 2:30 Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Nic Hunter of Lake Charles described conditions as mild and said it appeared that his community avoided the worst-case scenario forecasters predicted.

“It just shows you that every storm certainly has its own DNA,” Hunter said. “These tropical systems can be very finicky and we have seen less effects from Tropical Storm Nicholas so far than we had from a severe rain event on May 17 this year.”

In May, Lake Charles experienced a 1,000-year rain event that dumped more than 20 inches in parts of the city, quadrupling forecasted rainfall totals. The event flooded many homes and businesses that were damaged by Hurricanes Laura and Delta months earlier.

For Hunter, the unpredictability of the event underscored the need for resilient infrastructure in communities like his and the importance of taking each prediction of severe weather seriously.

“If we can get through the next 24 hours and we do not see any significant changes in the weather for Lake Charles, I’m pretty confident to say that we would be in the clear,” Hunter said.

With bout 95,000 homes and businesses still without power after Hurricane Ida, another 1,300 customers lost power because of Tropical Storm Nicholas — many of whom were in the dark during Hurricane Ida and only recently had their power restored, Edwards said.

President Joe Biden granted the state’s request for a pre-landfall federal disaster declaration Monday night. Gov. John Bel Edwards said that declaration allows Louisiana to jump-start the recovery process by moving search and rescue assets already in the state for Hurricane Ida into place to swiftly respond to Nicholas.

More than 8,200 soldiers are currently assisting the state with hurricane recovery, including the entirety of the Louisiana National Guard.

The State Fire Marshal and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries are staging search and rescue teams in Lafayette in anticipation of flash flooding in the region.

Keep up with the latest Nicholas forecast here.

Paul Braun was WRKF's Capitol Access reporter, from 2019 through 2023.