Tropical storm Nicholas brings heavy rain to Texas and Louisiana

Tropical storm Nicholas was downgraded from a hurricane after making landfall on the Texas coast in the US, bringing heavy rain and a danger of flash-flooding.

The storm was upgraded to a hurricane after reaching land at 00:30 local time on Tuesday morning September 14th, but quickly weakened.

More than 500,000 power outages have been reported in Texas.

Offshore US Gulf of Mexico oil platforms were evacuating on Monday, while onshore oil refiners began preparing for rain and heavy winds, as the coast of the Gulf of Mexico faced a second hurricane in a fortnight.

While still at sea Hurricane Nicholas was heading for the central Texas coast with 75mph winds. Parts of Louisiana, which took the brunt of Hurricane Ida a couple of weeks ago, were also affected.

Nicholas strengthened into a category one hurricane late on Monday.

Hurricane Ida seriously impacted oil production and refining facilities late in August and early in September, and power supplies, oil supplies and refining have not yet returned to normal. More than 40% of the US Gulf of Mexico’s oil and gas output remained offline on September 13th.

Damage to an offshore hub that pumps oil and gas from three major oilfields for processing onshore and power outages at onshore processing plants are responsible for the production losses. Royal Dutch Shell said that it had begun evacuating non-essential personnel from its Perdido platform, which was unaffected by Ida. Occidental Petroleum Corp said it was implementing procedures to safeguard workers, signalling its own offshore evacuations.

The Houston Ship Channel halted all traffic, and the Aransas-Corpus Christi pilots suspended activities due to heavy seas. The Houston Channel remained suspended on Tuesday.

Nicholas was a weak but slow-moving storm, which meant that the major threat was heavy rain and flash flooding rather than wind damage.

Oil imports and exports face potential delays from Nicholas. Vessels that were unable to load or discharge during Ida could be prevented from reaching ports again, shippers said.