Storm Nicholas turns into a hurricane and hits Texas with winds of 120 km/h

Hurricane Nicholas hit Texas, in the southern United States, this morning accompanied by winds of 120 km per hour and is heading towards Houston, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Until last night, Nicholas was a tropical storm, but gained strength during the night and became a Category 1 hurricane, on a scale that goes up to 5, when it was about to hit the Gulf Coast of the United States.

The hurricane “is bringing heavy rain, high winds and storms to parts of the central and upper coast of Texas,” warns the NHC in its latest bulletin. “This rain can produce significant flash floods,” says the center.

Just before reaching the mainland, the hurricane’s focus was located 30 km southeast of Matagorda, in the Gulf of Mexico, the report said. This city is just a few miles from Houston, the largest city in Texas.

The NHC has issued warnings for much of the Gulf Coast, indicating that “there is a risk of fatal flooding due to increased water moving inland from the coast.”

A hurricane warning is directed to populations residing in Freeport up to the San Luis Pass area. The locations of Port O’Connor, Sabine Pass, Galveston Bay and Matagorda Bay are threatened by a cyclonic tide, while a tropical storm is expected to reach north from Port Aransas to Sabine Pass. At least 270,000 homes were lit in Houston and another 40,000 in Houston County. Brazoria and in parts of the county of Galveston.

“This is a life-threatening situation,” the center notes, warning people in the area to take “all necessary measures to protect lives and property from floods and other potentially dangerous conditions.”

The bulletin says Nicholas is expected to move slowly over southeast Texas by Tuesday night and reach southwest Louisiana on Wednesday, a state still recovering from Hurricane Ida. The intensity of the winds and rains should progressively diminish in the coming days as Nicholas moves over the land.

Flights canceled in Houston

Sylvester Turner, mayor of Houston said the city is on high alert. “I urge everyone to stay off the roads at sunset and avoid driving tonight until tomorrow as we expect heavy rain,” Turner posted on Twitter.

Authorities erected barricades, activated Houston’s emergency management office and urged residents to take precautions.

The storm’s imminent arrival forced the cancellation of many flights at Houston-area airports. The shipping channel at the busy local port has also been closed, said an agency spokesman who directs ships through the waterway.

Schools closed on Monday afternoon across the storm-affected area and will remain closed on Tuesday, officials said.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott urged the state’s residents to abide by local authority guidelines. Texans are used to the tropical storms and hurricanes that are common in this region of the US, but scientists warn that climate change is intensifying these phenomena and putting coastal populations at risk. The coast suffers from flooding, which was aggravated by the rise in sea level.

*With information from AFP and RFI