Nicholas Largely Spares Lake Houston Area

Nicholas could have been much worse. In the days leading up to the storm, the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service made a series of worst-case projections that included up to 20 inches of rain in isolated spots. In the end, the best-case projections were far closer to reality…at least in the Lake Houston Area. In fairness, the closer the storm got to Houston, the more forecasters focused on potential problems near the coast.

Still, with hurricanes, you prepare for the worst and hope for the best. And in the end, we got the best of Nicholas. Even the power outages happened in the middle of the night when most people were asleep.

Results of Scouting Trip This Morning

A scouting trip this morning showed the worst never materialized here. That’s not to say that we were damage free. I saw numerous downed trees, signs blown over, and water filling roadside ditches. But, thankfully, no flooded homes! There may have been some; I just didn’t see any.

Kingwood Drive and Green Oak Drive in Kingwood. A sign of high winds during the night. See more images below.

Modest Rainfall Spread Out over Time Kept Bayous in Banks

As of 11 AM on Tuesday 9/14/2021, all streams and bayous in Harris County were within their banks, winds were dying down, and the worst part of the storm had moved off to the east.

I had 3.7 inches of rain in my gage for the last two days, which is largely consistent with other gages in the area. The gage at US59 and the West Fork San Jacinto recorded 3.04 inches over a two-day period. The rain was gentle and spread out. The heaviest downpour occurred Monday afternoon between 1 and 2 PM when we received .64 inches in a few minutes. But that volume was well within the capacity of storm sewers which can generally handle 1-2 inches per hour.

Mostly gentle rains were spread out enough to avoid flooding.
The stream gage at the same location showed the effects of lowering Lake Houston then the heavier parts of Nicholas’ rainfall.

The rest of the City and County fared pretty much the same, with the exception of the far south and eastern portions.

Two-day rainfall totals for Harris County during Nicholas. Note the sharp differences between north and south, and east and west.
Only Clear Creek came out of its banks as of 11 AM Tuesday morning.
The Kingwood Diversion Ditch was well within its banks. Photo taken at Kingwood Drive.

The diversion ditch was typical of every ditch I checked in Kingwood. All were well within their banks.

Satellite Imagery Shows Worst of Nicholas Now Off to East

Visible satellite images show the distinctive “comma shape” of Nicholas.

Visible satellite image as of 11 AM Houston time on 9/14/2021 shows much of Houston area still covered in clouds...
…But an infrared image taken minutes later shows the heaviest rains have moved east. Infrared images measure the cloud tops.
This water vapor image taken at the same time confirms that the storm is focused east of us now.

Downed Trees, Debris, and Power Outages will be Biggest Problems for Most People

Gus, the poodle, inspects a downed tree at Alligator Alley in East End Park. Note all the smaller debris scattered on the trail, too. That was typical of streets in the Kingwood area today. Photo courtesy of John Knoezer.

It will take a while to recover from the storm, but nothing like Harvey, Imelda, or even May 7, 2019. As of this morning, there were power outages randomly affecting neighborhoods and commercial areas. Some places seemed to be operating normally; others still lacked power. About every third traffic light was blinking.

I personally lost power several times throughout the night for a total of about six hours.

What Next for Nicholas?

According to the National Hurricane Center at its 10 AM update this morning, doppler weather radar data from Houston and Lake Charles, along with surface observations, indicate that Nicholas has continued to weaken while moving farther inland.

The strongest winds recently reported near the Texas and Louisiana coasts have been 33-35 kt (40 mph) near Sabine Pass, Texas. The estimated central pressure of 1002 mb is based on surface observations in Houston. Further weakening is expected as Nicholas moves farther inland due to frictional effects, entrainment of very dry mid-level air from the southern Plains, and increasing southwesterly to westerly shear.

Nicholas should become a tropical depression by tonight and degenerate into a remnant low by late Wednesday. Nicholas is now moving northeastward at only 5 kt. and should move even more slowly on Wednesday and Thursday. It is possible that Nicholas could stall over southwestern or central Louisiana. Although the winds associated with Nicholas will weaken, heavy rainfall and a significant flash flood risk will continue along the Gulf Coast during the next couple of days.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/14/2021 at 12:30 PM based on personal observations and data from NHC and HCFCD

1477 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 1 since Nicholas