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Hurricane Nicholas hit the Texas coast yesterday as a category 1 storm, bringing heavy rains and 75 mph winds. Rapidly intensifying from a tropical storm to a hurricane before making landfall, Nicholas gained 35 mph in wind speeds in a single day. There have been six Atlantic hurricanes so far this year, and five of them—including Nicholas—have met the National Hurricane Center’s definition of rapid intensification: a 35 mph wind speed increase within 24 hours. Nicholas has since weakened into a tropical storm, but is projected to bring heavy rain and flooding from the Upper Texas Coast through central and southern Louisiana.
Why This Matters: Even when a storm is downgraded from a hurricane, it can still cause serious damage, such as flooding and power loss.. This is especially true in Louisiana, where Hurricane Ida made landfall just two and a half weeks ago and nearly 100,000 people still remain without power, and the area’s soils haven’t yet recovered, making them susceptible to flooding. Nicholas is projected to bring at least 36 hours of heavy rain along the Gulf Coast.
Both rapid intensification and heavier rains are connected to climate change — a warmer Gulf of Mexico fuels intensification and warmer air holds more precipitation.
Storm Intensification, Ranked: While a 35 mph increase in wind speed in 24 hours is the threshold for “rapid intensification,” many storms this year have blown past that number, including:
Nicholas: 35 mph
Larry: 45 mph
Ida: 65 mph
Grace: 55 mph
Elsa: 35 mph
Hurricane Henri is the year’s only hurricane that didn’t rapidly intensify. With 2021’s hurricane season only halfway over, it’s on track to have more named storms make landfall than the 2020’s record-breaking season.
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