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Tropical Depression Nicholas: Louisiana Could See Heavy Rains, Flooding Through Weekend

National Hurricane Center

Nicholas has been downgraded to a tropical depression, but forecasters and public officials warn that the system could bring heavy rains and dangerous flooding to south Louisiana through the weekend.

The storm could dump as much as 10 inches of rain in some parts of the state, and forecasters with the National Hurricane Center warn that the system could cause “life-threatening” flash flooding and minor river flooding in some areas.

The NHC issued its final advisory on Nicholas Wednesday morning. The storm was 30 miles northeast of Lake Charles and moving east-northeast at 5 miles per hour. Wind speeds were last recorded at 30 miles per hour. Forecasters expect the system to stall over southeast Louisiana on Thursday before moving north and dissipating on Friday. The slow pace of the storm will leave much of southeast Louisiana under the threat of bad weather through the weekend.

The system has the potential to drop 3-7 inches of rain across the state, with up to 10 inches forecast for some areas.

A flash flood watch has been issued for most south Louisiana parishes and coastal Mississippi counties and will remain in effect through 7:00 a.m. Thursday.

The weather system could spawn tornadoes in southeast Louisiana on Wednesday, but at this point forecasters view the storm primarily as a rain event.

And there is even more rain in the forecast for south Louisiana after Nicholas clears the area.

WWNO Meteorologist Dan Holiday said the warm sea temperatures experienced in the Gulf of Mexico this time of year frequently feed heavy rainstorms along the coast.

“Any time you have temperatures that are warmer, they allow for more moisture to be held in the atmosphere for a longer period of time, and we know that conditions are very conducive for tropical activity this year,” Holiday said. “We just, unfortunately, have been in the spot when we cannot get out of its way.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards urged Louisiana residents to take Nicholas — and any storms that follow — seriously.

“Bottom line is much of Louisiana is projected to receive a lot of rain,” Edwards said Tuesday during a pre-storm press conference. “And the most distressing part of this is the heaviest rain now is expected to fall in areas that were most devastated by Hurricane Ida.”

Edwards said high piles of storm debris from Hurricane Ida could inhibit drainage and lead to more flash flooding than a storm of this caliber would typically produce.

He advised drivers to avoid flooded roadways, which will be even more dangerous because of the possibility of submerged hurricane debris, and to take note of any emergency signage placed by Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development crews.

"It doesn't take much water in terms of depth or current to actually move a vehicle completely off the road into a ditch or waterway," Edwards said. "Please do not drive around barricades and don't ignore high water signs."

More than 80,000 structures in south Louisiana were rendered uninhabitable after Hurricane Ida, and the tarps used to temporarily cover damaged roofs are in short supply. Edwards said Monday that the state received a bulk shipment of tarps that it would distribute among storm victims.

Demand for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Operation Blue Roof, which installs fiber-reinforced sheeting on homes that would otherwise be uninhabitable, is far outpacing supply. As of Tuesday, more than 55,000 people had applied for the service, and only 800 temporary roofs had been installed. The program installed 14,000 temporary roofs in southwest Louisiana after Hurricane Laura.

Entergy reported 76,000 power outages Wednesday morning, 12,000 of which were caused by Nicholas. Estimated restoration times will be provided once the utility provider has completed an assessment of the damage.
Copyright 2021 WRKF. To see more, visit WRKF.

Paul Braun is WRKF's Capitol Access reporter.

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