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Tropical Depression Nicholas lingers in Louisiana, dumps rain as far as Florida

Home destroyed by Hurricane Ida
Clouds from storm system Nicholas fill the sky behind a home destroyed by Hurricane Ida in Pointe-aux-Chenes, La.
(Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)

Tropical Depression Nicholas hovered over Louisiana on Wednesday, dumping heavy rain on a region struggling to recover from Hurricane Ida and swamping coastal Mississippi, Alabama and northwest Florida.

Flash-flood warnings were in effect Wednesday evening in parts of south Alabama and northwest Florida. And the National Weather Service said heavy rains were likely to last until Nicholas dissipates over Louisiana some time Friday. In Louisiana, the rainfall complicated an already difficult recovery at homes ripped open by Ida on Aug. 29. Thousands remain without power in Texas and Louisiana.

Nicholas dumped as much as 10 inches of rain on parts of Texas — and the weather service was checking reports of nearly 14 inches in Galveston — after making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane, the 14th named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. Houston reported more than 6 inches of rain, and parts of Louisiana received more than 10 inches from the storm.

In Louisiana, the flash-flood danger was expected to end Thursday, but the rain is forecast to linger for days.

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“I’m not sure at this point what it looks like,” said Edith Anthony, whose home in LaPlace, a New Orleans suburb between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River, lost part of its roof while getting about 2 to 3 feet of floodwater two weeks ago.

The home still doesn’t have electricity and she couldn’t arrange for a tarp to cover the roof before Nicholas blew in. Now she and her husband are staying in a Mobile, Ala., hotel, preparing to return this weekend to what’s left of their home.

A strengthening Hurricane Ida, bearing high winds and the likelihood of flooding rain as it heads for the Louisiana coast, could damage the energy-heavy Gulf Coast economy and potentially have economic consequences well beyond the region.

“We’re going to be in a wet weather pattern well into next week,” said meteorologist Christopher Brannan of the National Weather Service. He said Nicholas, now a tropical depression, will probably stall over southwest Louisiana while it dissipates into a remnant low pressure system.

The storm was forecast to dump as much as 6 inches of rain from southeast Louisiana into the Florida Panhandle through Friday, with 10 inches possible in isolated areas.

The Louisiana power grid’s failure in Hurricane Ida’s wake is familiar for Entergy Corp., which has grappled with outages after previous hurricanes

More than 112,000 electricity customers were still without power Wednesday morning in Texas, including 75,000 in the Houston area. At its peak, more than half a million homes and businesses were without power in Texas.

In Louisiana on Wednesday, 72,000 were still without power more than two weeks after Ida. Power had largely been restored in New Orleans, where the entire city had been blacked out by the storm. But problems remained, including piles of debris and accumulated garbage that officials were struggling to collect. Ida exacerbated an existing labor shortage that had slowed collection even before the storm. City officials announced Wednesday that they had opened a site where residents could take bagged household garbage and dispose of it free of charge.

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Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned people to take Nicholas seriously, even though it was no longer a hurricane.

“This is a very serious storm, particularly in those areas that were so heavily impacted by Hurricane Ida,” Edwards said Tuesday.

Ida peeled open the tin roof of Terry and Patti Dardar’s home in the small Louisiana community of Pointe-aux-Chenes, and then Nicholas made things much worse, soaking the upstairs. They still don’t have power or water service; the rain enabled their son Terren and their grandchildren to collect badly needed water in jugs. They poured it through a strainer into a huge plastic container and hauled it up to the house, where a pump powered by a generator brings the water inside.

Patti Dardar said the family is doing its best with what it has left.

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“We ain’t got no other place,” she said. “This is our home.”

Jerry Nappi, a spokesperson for Entergy Louisiana, said the utility company, which serves much of the state, did not expect Nicholas to lengthen restoration times.

Joe Ticheli, manager and chief executive of South Louisiana Electric Cooperative Assn., said the rain from Nicholas hadn’t affected their operations. The cooperative serves about 21,000 customers across five parishes including parts of the hard-hit Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

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As of late Tuesday, he said power has been restored to about 80% of its customers with the remaining 20% mostly in the hardest-hit parts of southern Terrebonne Parish. But he noted that the destruction in those areas is so “catastrophic” that even when power is restored, houses and businesses won’t be able to receive it.

The rain seemed to blow past the weather-battered city of Lake Charles in southwest Louisiana — hit last year by hurricanes Laura and Delta — where city crews scoured the drainage system to keep it free from debris during Nicholas. Mayor Nic Hunter said he’s been worried about how his people are coping.

“With what people have gone through over the last 16 months here in Lake Charles, they are very, understandably, despondent, emotional. Any time we have even a hint of a weather event approaching, people get scared,” he said.

Associated Press reporters Jay Reeves, in Pointe-aux-Chenes, La., and Juan A. Lozano in Surfside Beach, Texas, contributed to this report.


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