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Tropical Storm Nicholas to Bring Heavy Rain to Texas and Louisiana

Credit…NHC, NOAA

Tropical Storm Nicholas, which formed on Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico, could bring heavy rains to coastal Texas and Louisiana on Monday and Tuesday as it strengthens, the National Hurricane Center said.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for the coast of Texas, from the mouth of the Rio Grande to High Island, Texas, about 80 miles east of Houston, the center said. Mexico has also issued a tropical storm warning from Barra El Mezquital north to the U.S.-Mexico border.

A hurricane watch is also in effect for the coast of Texas, from Freeport to Port Aransas, just east of Corpus Christi, the center said.

Nicholas, the 14th named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, could produce rainfall totals of eight to 16 inches, with isolated amounts of up to 20 inches, across portions of coastal Texas lasting through the middle of the week, the hurricane center said.

In southwest Louisiana and parts of eastern Texas, the storm could produce rainfall totals of 5 to 10 inches, which could cause “considerable flash and urban flooding,” the hurricane center said.

Forecasters said tropical storm conditions were expected along parts of the northeastern coast of Mexico and South Texas beginning Monday morning. It was expected to approach the middle Texas coast as a tropical storm on Monday, but could be near hurricane intensity if it remains over water longer, the hurricane center said.

Nicholas is expected to strengthen until it reaches the northwestern part of the Gulf Coast on Monday night or early Tuesday morning, the center said. At 4 a.m. Central time on Monday, the storm was moving northward at 14 miles per hour.

How to Decode Hurricane Season Terms

Karen Zraick
Christina Caron

Karen Zraick and Christina CaronReporting on the weather 🌬️

How to Decode Hurricane Season Terms

Karen Zraick
Christina Caron

Karen Zraick and Christina CaronReporting on the weather 🌬️

Emily Kask for The New York Times

What is “landfall”? And what are you truly facing when you’re in the eye of the storm?

During hurricane season, news coverage and forecasts can include a host of confusing terms. Let’s take a look at what they mean

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It has been a dizzying couple of months for meteorologists as the arrival of peak hurricane season — August through November — led to a run of named storms that formed in quick succession, bringing stormy weather, flooding and damaging winds to parts of the United States and the Caribbean.

Tropical Storm Mindy hit the Florida Panhandle on Sept. 8, just hours after it formed in the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Larry, which formed on Sept. 1, strengthened to a Category 3 storm two days later and then weakened. It struck Canada as a Category 1 hurricane and caused widespread power outages in Newfoundland.

Ida battered Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane on Aug. 29 before its remnants brought deadly flooding to the New York area. Two other tropical storms, Julian and Kate, both fizzled out within a day at the same time.

Not long before them, in mid-August, Tropical Storm Fred made landfall in the Florida Panhandle and Hurricane Grace hit Haiti and Mexico. Tropical Storm Henri knocked out power and brought record rainfall to the Northeastern United States on Aug. 22.

The links between hurricanes and climate change are becoming more apparent. A warming planet can expect to see stronger hurricanes over time, and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms. But the overall number of storms could drop, because factors like stronger wind shear could keep weaker storms from forming.

Hurricanes are also becoming wetter because of more water vapor in the warmer atmosphere; scientists have suggested storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 produced far more rain than it would have without the human effects on climate. Also, rising sea levels are contributing to higher storm surge — the most destructive element of tropical cyclones.

A major United Nations climate report released in August warned that nations had delayed curbing their fossil-fuel emissions for so long that they could no longer stop global warming from intensifying over the next 30 years, leading to more frequent life-threatening heat waves and severe droughts. Tropical cyclones have likely become more intense over the past 40 years, the report said, a shift that cannot be explained by natural variability alone.

Ana became the first named storm of the season on May 23, making this the seventh year in a row that a named storm developed in the Atlantic Ocean before the official start of the season on June 1.

In May, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast that there would be 13 to 20 named storms this year, six to 10 of which would be hurricanes, and three to five major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher in the Atlantic. In early August, in a midseason update to the forecast, they continued to warn that this year’s hurricane season would be an above-average one, suggesting a busy end to the season.

Matthew Rosencrans, of NOAA, said that an updated forecast suggested that there would be 15 to 21 named storms, including seven to 10 hurricanes, by the end of the season on Nov. 30. Nicholas is the 14th named storm of 2021.

Last year, there were 30 named storms, including six major hurricanes, forcing meteorologists to exhaust the alphabet for the second time and move to using Greek letters.

It was the highest number of storms on record, surpassing the 28 from 2005, and included the second-highest number of hurricanes on record.

Christopher Mele and Daniel Victor contributed reporting.

Workers installed a temporary roof on a home in New Orleans last week that was damaged by Hurricane Ida.
Credit…Chris Granger/The Advocate, via Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — Even as blue tarps cover damaged roofs across Louisiana and more than 100,000 people remain without power, a new tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to bring more wind and rain, most likely slowing the state’s recovery from Hurricane Ida and threatening residents who are already vulnerable.

Louisianans are dreading the arrival of Tropical Storm Nicholas, which is expected to hit Texas on Monday morning and then push northeast along the Louisiana coast on Monday night, just over two weeks after Hurricane Ida tore through the state. Forecasters say that more than a foot of rain could drench some areas.

“The neighbors and all of us, we’re feeling pretty anxious watching this other depression out there,” said Valerie Williams, as she nervously watched the cloudy skies on Sunday afternoon from her home in Luling, about 30 minutes west of New Orleans. Her husband and son installed a tarp on her roof after Hurricane Ida’s winds damaged it. “We don’t need another one — we really don’t,” she said.

Ida left New Orleans without power for more than 50 hours. Power has been restored in all but a sliver of the city, but roughly 118,000 electric customers outside New Orleans are still in the dark.

Entergy, the largest electric company in the state, has said the new storm has the potential to delay how quickly those residents get power back. New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana, which was hit hardest by Ida, could receive up to four inches of rain, while the southwestern part of the state could see up to 10 inches.

In Texas, the damage is likely to be worse. Forecasters are warning of the potential for major flooding in cities from Brownsville, Texas, to Lake Charles, La., a city of 85,000 people.

Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana declared a state of emergency on Sunday night. “All Louisianans should pay close attention to this tropical system,” he said. Officials in Calcasieu Parish, which borders Texas and includes Lake Charles, established several sandbag-filling sites so that people could fortify their homes.

Mr. Edwards warned that the new storm would quite likely cause the worst damage in the southwestern portion of the state, where many residents are still recovering from Hurricane Laura in August 2020 and flooding this past May, when streets appeared like rivers and cars were almost entirely submerged. But Mr. Edwards said residents in other southern parts of the state were also in danger, including those who had sustained damage from Ida.

In Southwest Louisiana, many homes are still covered in blue tarps after Hurricane Laura wreaked havoc there. Overall, more than 52,000 state residents have requested free installation of durable tarps through Blue Roof, a program funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The installations are performed or overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The program is just ramping up, but Col. Zachary L. Miller of the corps’s Ida recovery mission said he had hoped to attach all temporary roofs within 60 days.

Now, he said, Nicholas may delay workers’ efforts. “We understand the sense of urgency homeowners feel,” he said. “And we also understand more rain can mean more damage.”

The Tamarack fire, which was named after a California town near where the blaze broke out in July.
Credit…Noah Berger/Associated Press

Dixie. August Complex. Not Creative.

The top three finishers in the Belmont Stakes? No, those are the names of wildfires that have burned across the American West in recent years.

Unlike hurricanes, which are given human names from a list chosen in advance by the World Meteorological Organization, wildfires get their names in a much more intuitive way: Whatever makes it the easiest for firefighters to find a blaze and for nearby residents to consistently track the fire’s path.

Some of those burning right now include the South Yaak fire in Montana (after the Yaak Valley), the Tamarack fire in California (after a town) and the nation’s largest blaze this year, the Dixie fire (after a nearby road).

Usually, fires get their names based on where they originate, fire officials have said. They’re named for winding rural roads, nearby landmarks or mountain peaks.

Although the Dixie fire started some distance from where Dixie Road appears on maps, Rick Carhart, a Butte County spokesman for Cal Fire, California’s state fire agency, said it demonstrates how “remote and inaccessible” the blaze was for firefighters.

“Even though it didn’t start on the side of Dixie Road, it was the closest thing,” he said. Mr. Carhart noted that Dixie Road appears close to Camp Creek Road, after which 2018’s deadly Camp fire was named.

Lynnette Round, a spokeswoman for Cal Fire, said that also means multiple blazes can end up with the same name.

There has been more than one River fire, for instance. And in 2017, during a busy year, the blaze that came to be known as the Lilac fire in San Diego County was actually the fifth one to be given that name.

Ms. Round said the first fire officials on the scene often name a blaze, and the moniker is almost never changed.

“If it changes, you’ll confuse people,” she said. Residents who have fled their homes might not know which fire they should be paying attention to if names shift. And fire officials might get confused about where to send resources.

Sometimes, fires burn together and effectively merge. If that happens, as it did with the Dixie fire and the Fly fire, officials will typically start using the larger fire’s name for both.

Last year, unusual lightning storms sparked many fires across California. “When they all run together, they become a complex fire,” Ms. Round said.

Such was the case with the August Complex, the largest fire on record in California, which burned more than a million acres last year. It ignited in August, heralding the early start of a record-breaking fire season.

Occasionally, there won’t be a significant landmark close to a fire’s ignition point. So officials will get creative. (Or not.)

That’s how, during the summer of 2015, officials named a blaze in southeast Idaho “Not Creative,” according to reports. A spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Lands told NPR the name was selected after a long day of firefighting.

Some of the largest wildfires in U.S. history are burning across the American West this year, charring vast swaths of forest land and threatening communities.

This interactive map built by The New York Times, using government and satellite data, is tracking wildfires as they spread across Western states. Check back regularly for updates.

Remnants of the Bootleg Fire near Klamath Falls, Oregon, on Saturday.
Credit…U.S. Forest Service, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As large swaths of the West dry out and burn, scientists say climate change is playing an increasing role in the earlier fire seasons, the deadly heat waves and the lack of water.

The record-high temperatures that assaulted the Pacific Northwest in late June and early July, for instance, would have been all but impossible without climate change, according to a team of researchers who studied the deadly heat wave.

Heat, drought and fire are connected, and because human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases have raised baseline temperatures nearly two degrees Fahrenheit on average since 1900, heat waves, including those in the West, are becoming hotter and more frequent.

“The Southwest is getting hammered by climate change harder than almost any other part of the country, apart from perhaps coastal cities,” Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Michigan, recently told The New York Times. “And as bad as it might seem today, this is about as good as it’s going to get if we don’t get global warming under control.”

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