Weeks after getting battered by hurricane-force winds, southeast Louisiana is once again in the crosshairs of a life-threatening natural disaster, as Tropical Storm Nicholas inches closer with forecasts of excessive rain and threats of flash flooding.
"Bottom line is much of south and central Louisiana is projected to receive a lot of rain," Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a press conference Tuesday.
The storm made landfall along the Texas coast Tuesday morning as a Category 1 hurricane, and is slowly crawling towards Louisiana, where it's forecasted to weaken into a tropical depression and potentially stall with heavy rains.
Earlier predictions suggested that southwest Louisiana would bear the brunt of the storm, but the latest forecasts show the greatest threat to the southeastern corner of the state, which is projected to receive 5 to 10 inches of rain through the weekend.
"One of the most distressing parts of this is that the heaviest rain now is expected to fall in the areas that were most devastated by Hurricane Ida," Edwards said. "Obviously this is not what we would want to have happen in Louisiana."
Louisiana's southeastern parishes are just over two weeks into their recovery after Hurricane Ida's catastrophic winds peeled off roofs, dismantled homes and displaced thousands of residents from the tip of Port Fourchon up through the Mississippi border.
Tropical Storm Nicholas is likely to intensify that suffering. Edwards noted that many residents are living in homes that haven't "been temporarily repaired to the point where they can withstand rain."
Forecasters say the storm could drop up to 20 inches of rain in some areas of south Louisiana, and with canals and culverts clogged with debris, flash floods are a possibility. Edwards warned that it doesn't take a named storm to cause significant damage.
"I just want to remind you that it wasn’t even a named storm in 2016 that caused massive flooding across most of the state of Louisiana," Edwards said, adding that Hurricane Ida caused catastrophic damage in the northeast long after it was downgraded.
Tropical Strom Nicholas could also cause a handful of tornadoes. Edwards said residents should charge their phones and have the volume turned up throughout the night in the event that a warning is issued and they need to take shelter.
The latest storm could complicate efforts to repair the electrical grid. More than 95,000 customers remain without power in Hurricane Ida's aftermath, and already, another 13,500 outages have been reported from Tropical Storm Nicholas' wind gusts. Edwards said homes and businesses that regained electricity after the could again lose power.
The governor urged motorists to stay off the road during and after the storm and encouraged the public to check www.511LA.org for updates on road closures. During May's flooding, four of the five deaths reported involved car accidents.
As of Tuesday morning, there were 1,100 people in 18 shelters across Louisiana, and while the state is transitioning those individuals back to their local parishes, the shelters remain open for survivors of the latest storm. For information on shelters text 'LASHELTER' to 898-211 or call 211.
"I do want to encourage people to take the threats seriously," Edwards said. "Obviously, if you and your family are not fully recovered from Ida then you have a heightened sense of vulnerability here and probably are more likely to take this seriously."
The governor noted that the forecast could shift, but as it currently stands, south Louisiana will receive an "awful lot of rain."
"If you live in south Louisiana you can expect a lot of rain. You should anticipate flash flooding and potentially river flooding," Edwards said. "This is a very serious storm particularly in those areas that were so heavily impacted by Hurricane Ida."