AUSTIN, Texas -- For the sixth time in the past three months, a tropical storm or a hurricane is aiming for the now-waterlogged United States’ Gulf Coast. Tropical Storm Nicholas, which is poised to make landfall sometime Monday, would be the first to directly strike Texas in 2021. While Nicholas is unlikely to achieve hurricane status, the National Hurricane Center is warning those in its path of the potential for “life-threatening inundation” by storm surge, with as much as 20 inches of rainfall in some areas causing both that surge and flash flooding.
As we saw when Hurricane Ida reached land two weeks ago, these powerful storms can lead to both power outages and industrial accidents. Like Tropical Storm Mindy last week, Nicholas developed close to the Gulf shore, leaving little time for the operators of oil, gas and other dangerous facilities to prepare for the worst.
In response, Environment Texas Executive Director Luke Metzger released the following statement:
“The oil derricks, refineries and other petrochemical infrastructure that blight Texas and the Gulf are accidents waiting to happen every time there’s a tropical storm or hurricane. Where we drill, we spill. Ida reportedly caused at least 2,300 spills, endangering our wildlife and our water.
“Forecasters say parts of the middle and upper Texas coastal areas could get 8-16 inches of rain -- with isolated areas getting 20 inches -- by mid-week. This climate change-fueled rainmaker will cause life-threatening flooding right away, and potentially, life-changing repercussions from that flooding -- just look at some of the damage in Ida’s wake.
“We can not accept the increasingly common, powerful and destructive storms of the past few years as the ‘new normal.’ It’s time for us to cut back on our fossil fuel production and usage so that we can slow climate change and stymie its worst impacts -- such as those storms. It’s time to shutter many of those facilities and make sure they won’t leak toxic chemicals into our water and air. And it’s time to improve our infrastructure to avoid coastal erosion and sewage overflows. That’s a win-win-win for all of us.”