Tropical Storm Nicholas
Source: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the Department of Commerce of the United States.

Travel Alert September 2021: Tropical Storm Nicholas to Flood Much of Louisiana

See which airlines have either issued or amended travel waivers as a result of a weather event.

More airlines have issued travel waivers for eastern Texas and Louisiana due to Tropical Storm Nicholas, whose landfall occurred southwest of Galveston after very briefly becoming a minimal hurricane early this morning, Tuesday, September 14, 2021; and the good news is that it is weakening to become a tropical depression.

Travel Alert September 2021: Tropical Storm Nicholas to Flood Much of Louisiana

Tropical Storm Nicholas
Source: National Hurricane Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States.

Maximum sustained winds of Tropical Storm Nicholas — which is currently centered approximately ten miles southeast of Houston in Texas and is moving northeast at six miles per hour — are 45 miles per hour, which means that this storm is classified as a tropical storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Although the good news is that the landfall of Tropical Storm Nicholas has occurred but is now weakening, the bad news is that the forward motion of the storm is slowing down — to the point where it is forecast to meander around the state of Louisiana through at least Friday, September 17, 2021 and potentially flood much of the state with excessive precipitation, as no front or other steering mechanism is forecast to push the storm anywhere anytime soon.

The concern of substantial flooding which was expressed in past articles at The Gate about this storm appears to unfortunately be coming true — especially for areas which will be affected by the southeastern quadrant of the storm, in which moisture from the Gulf of Mexico will continue to flow in and drench areas with as much as 20 inches of rain. Moreover, many of those locations have already been impacted by previous recent tropical systems and could significantly exacerbate flooding and damage in areas such as Gulfport, Lake Charles, Mobile, Jackson, Baton Rouge, Biloxi, and New Orleans, as there is simply nowhere for the excess water to go.

Official Warnings and Watches

The following official watches and warnings were issued by the National Hurricane Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States:

  • A tropical storm warning is currently in effect from High Island in Texas to Cameron in Louisiana.
  • A storm surge warning is currently in effect from Port Bolivar in Texas to Sabine Pass, which includes Galveston Bay.
  • A storm surge watch is currently in effect from Sabine Pass to Cameron in Louisiana.

Tropical Storm Nicholas is expected to produce between five and ten inches of additional rainfall — with isolated storm totals of as much as 20 inches across southern Louisiana — from the upper Texas coastal area into central to southern Louisiana, far southern Mississippi, far southern Alabama, and the western Florida Panhandle through Thursday, September 16, 2021. Life-threatening flash flooding impacts — especially in urbanized metropolitan areas — are possible across these regions.

Widespread minor to isolated major river flooding is expected across portions of the upper Texas Gulf Coast and southern Louisiana and Mississippi.

The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. The water could reach the following heights above ground somewhere in the indicated areas if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide…

  • Port Bolivar in Texas to Cameron in Louisiana — including Galveston Bay: 2-4 feet
  • Port Aransas to Port Bolivar: 1-3 feet
  • Aransas Bay, San Antonio Bay, and Matagorda Bay: 1-3 feet
  • Cameron to Intracoastal City: 1-3 feet
  • Sabine Lake and Calcasieu Lake: 1-3 feet

The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast in areas of onshore winds, where the surge will be accompanied by large and dangerous waves. Surge-related flooding depends on the relative timing of the surge and the tidal cycle, and can vary greatly over short distances.

Tropical storm conditions are expected to continue along the Louisiana coast into this afternoon. Tropical storm conditions in the warning area across the upper Texas coast will diminish this afternoon as the storm moves farther to the northeast.

A tornado or two will be possible today into tonight across southern Louisiana.

Swells will continue affecting portions of the northwest gulf coast today and are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

Flight Waivers, Delays and Cancellations

If you are traveling to or from eastern Texas or much of Louisiana over the next few days, expect delays and cancellations of flights. Keep up to date on the latest information pertaining to this tropical weather system which may adversely affect your travel plans. Better yet, postponing or canceling your trip might be a better option — no matter which mode of travel you plan on taking.

If you have a flight scheduled, your flight may be delayed or canceled — and you may be eligible for a waiver of a fee to change your itinerary.

Here are eight airlines which have issued travel alerts as a result of this tropical weather system:

  • American Airlines has issued travel alerts for Lake Charles and seven airports in Texas for Monday, September 13, 2021 through Wednesday, September 15, 2021; and Wednesday, September 22, 2021 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
  • Delta Air Lines has issued travel alerts for both airports which serve the greater Houston metropolitan area for Tuesday, September 14, 2021 through Wednesday, September 15, 2021; and Sunday, September 19, 2021 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
  • United Airlines has issued travel alerts for six airports in Texas for Monday, September 13, 2021 through Tuesday, September 14, 2021; and Saturday, September 18, 2021 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
  • Southwest Airlines has issued travel alerts for Corpus Christi, Harlingen, and both airports which serve the greater Houston metropolitan area for Sunday, September 12, 2021 through Tuesday, September 14, 2021; and Tuesday, September 28, 2021 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
  • JetBlue Airways has issued a travel alert for Houston for Tuesday, September 14, 2021 through Wednesday, September 15, 2021; and Sunday, September 19, 2021 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
  • Spirit Airlines has issued a travel alert for Houston for Tuesday, September 14, 2021 through Wednesday, September 15, 2021; and Sunday, September 19, 2021 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
  • Air Canada has issued a travel alert for Houston for Tuesday, September 14, 2021 through Wednesday, September 15, 2021.
  • Aeromexico has issued a travel alert for Houston for Monday, September 13, 2021 through Tuesday, September 14, 2021; and Friday, September 17, 2021 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.

Final Boarding Call

I personally think a maximum of 20 inches of rain is too optimistic for some areas. I believe that by the time all is said and done, at least two feet of precipitation will have fallen in some isolated areas because this system will have basically stalled over Louisiana over the next few days. I truly hope that I am wrong.

Do not be surprised if more travel alerts are issued by more airlines as the remnants of what was briefly Hurricane Nicholas drench many locations inland with torrential rain, which is likely to be worse than what the remnants of what was once Hurricane Ida left in the northeastern United States.

Be sure to contact your airline or transportation provider for the latest information pertaining to your travels — if they are adversely affected — and please: travel safely.

Source: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the Department of Commerce of the United States.

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