Heavy downpours from Hurricane Nicholas batter Texas, Louisiana

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HOUSTON – Heavy rains lashed Texas and Louisiana on Tuesday (Sept 14) as Hurricane Nicholas weakened into a tropical storm, bringing the threat of widespread floods and power outages as it swept down the United States Gulf Coast.

It is the second major storm to threaten the region in recent weeks after Hurricane Ida killed more than two dozen people in August and devastated communities in Louisiana near New Orleans.

Nicholas should weaken further and become a depression by Wednesday, the Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.

It could still cause life-threatening flash floods across the Deep South in the next couple of days, the agency warned.

Nicholas was about 25km south-southwest of Houston by 7am Central Time, heading north-northeast with maximum sustained winds of 95km/hour, the NHC said in a bulletin.

President Joe Biden declared an emergency for Louisiana and ordered federal assistance for local responders because of the effects of Nicholas, the White House said.

Nicholas could knock out electricity and hamper restoration efforts after Ida knocked out power in Louisiana.

Early on Tuesday, more than 95,000 customers in Louisiana had lost power, according to the website PowerOutage.us, while in the Houston area alone, more than 415,000 customers faced outages, utility CenterPoint Energy said.

Texas Greg Abbott declared states of emergency in 17 counties and three cities, with boat and helicopter rescue teams being deployed or put on standby.

Crowdsourse Rescue, a disaster-response organisation in Texas, said on Twitter that its swift-water teams reported no calls for rescue overnight.

“But we’ll take a mediocre night of sleep in a truck then no sleep in a boat,” it said. “Knocking on wood, but so far so good?”

Volunteers with the organisation fanned out across the coastal areas to do damage assessments and found minimal debris and flooding.

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