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Hurricane Nicholas makes landfall in Texas, threatens widespread flooding


The fourteenth named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, tropical storm Nicholas, continued to intensify off the Texas coast and eventually made landfall in the last few hours having strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane Nicholas, becoming the sixth hurricane of the season.

As we explained yesterday, Nicholas gained some structure over the very warm waters off the Texas coast and was forecast to intensify before it came ashore in Texas, but it wasn’t certain if it would manage to reach hurricane strength.

The central pressure dropped and hurricane Nicholas had 75 mph sustained winds, with gusts as high as 85 mph and a minimum central pressure of 991mb when it made landfall on the Texas coast recently, about 20 miles north east from Matagorda.

Hurricane Nicholas was already soaking the Texas coastal region long before its official landfall, as it tracked the coast and brought enormous amounts of moisture with it, resulting in torrential rain and flash flooding.

Tropical storm Nicholas forecast track towards Texas

Now, hurricane Nicholas is likely to weaken back to tropical storm Nicholas, but is still forecast to only move slowly inland on the Texas coastline where it may still be able to feed on the warm Gulf waters, meaning the storms coastal impacts could still be relatively long-lasting and it can pick up additional moisture.

Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 115 miles and hurricane winds 25 miles, so hurricane Nicholas remains quite compact, but its rains will affect a wide area.

Hurricane Nicholas continues to carry a significant amount of moisture from the warm Gulf of Mexico waters and is expected to threaten flash flooding and torrential rains through the next few days as it meanders just inland of the coast and moves from Texas into south Louisiana.

Rainfall totals of 6 to 12 inches are widely expected across Texas with isolated maximum amounts of as high as 18 inches possible.

Parts of Louisiana will also experience 4 to 8 inches of rainfall, with local amounts of 10 inches or higher possible. As this impacts the region hurricane Ida came ashore it could make the recovery more challenging there.

A storm surge of 3 to 5 feet in depth is forecast for Port O’Connor to San Luis Pass, Texas, including Matagorda Bay to Galveston Bay, with lower surges further afield along the Texas coast.

Hurricane force wind gusts are anticipated onshore, but hurricane Nicholas is still expected to be more of a water threat from its rainfall and flooding, than a threat of wind damage, despite its strengthening.

Hurricane Nicholas continues to appear to be more of a threat to the primary insurance industry, rather than to reinsurance capital, as a minor hurricane, but the rainfall threat could be severe and cause relatively significant impacts it seems.

Hurricane Nicholas is forecast to slow as it moves inland and tracks the coast towards Louisiana, with a severe rainfall threat for coastal areas of Texas and even the Houston metro area under a rainfall threat alert at this time.

The NHC warns of the risk of life threatening flash flooding for the Texas and southwestern Louisiana region, with Houston also on alert.

On top of the flood impacts from hurricane Ida, the National Flood Insurance Program looks set to take another large burden of claims from hurricane Nicholas.

Now at hurricane strength, Nicholas does pose a greater risk to reinsurance capital than it did yesterday, but it seems most likely the storm will pose its greatest threat from water related impacts rather than wind, meaning a significant proportion of its damages likely won’t be covered by private insurance or reinsurance markets..

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