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Nicholas weakens to tropical storm after making landfall in southern Texas

Nicholas weakens to tropical storm after making landfall in southern Texas
Nicholas made landfall early Tuesday as a Category 1 hurricane but it has since been downgraded to a tropical storm. Photo courtesy NOAA/NHC

Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Nicholas was downgraded to a tropical storm early Tuesday after making landfall as a hurricane along the Texas coast, trashing it with heavy rain and high winds, forecasters said.

The National Weather Service in Houston said at about 1 a.m. CDT that Nicholas made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane near Sargent, a city along the southern coast about 74 miles south of Houston. The storm had formed Sunday in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico.

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In its 4 a.m. CDT update, the National Hurricane Center placed the storm about 30 miles south-southwest of Houston and 35 miles north-northwest of Freeport, Texas. It had maximum sustained winds of 70 mph and was moving north-northeast at 9 mph.

The storm had strengthened into a hurricane late Monday, but the forecasters predicted early Tuesday that it would weaken over the next few days as it moves over land.

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The forecasters warned, however, that the storm could cause life-threatening flash flooding in the Deep South.

Officials in Houston reported on Monday that high standing water had already begun to form on freeways and that barricades are being deployed on city streets. A flash flood watch was issued for the city through Tuesday evening,

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"Do not go around barricades," transportation officials urged. "They are there for your protection."

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A storm surge warning was in effect for Sargent to Sabine Pass including Galveston Bay while a tropical storm warning was issued for Matagorda to Cameron. A storm surge watch has also been called for Sabine Pass, Texas, to Rutherford Beach, La.

Nicholas is expected to produce 5-10 inches of rain from the upper Texas coastal area into central and southern Louisiana and southern Mississippi and Alabama. Up to 20 inches is possible in isolated areas across central to southern Louisiana, the forecasters said.

On the forecast track, the storm is expected to move slowly to the northeast later Tuesday and then eastward over Louisiana by Wednesday, the NHC said.

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"Life-threatening flash flooding impacts, especially in urbanized metropolitan areas, are possible across portions of the upper Texas Gulf Coast into far southwestern Louisiana," the NHC said.

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