The best thing people should expect to say after a storm with the ferocity of Hurricane Nicholas comes ashore is it could have been a lot worse.
A cursory drive through Brazosport and to the coast early Tuesday, not long after Nicholas and its heavy rains had moved east, showed it easily could have been worse.
Damage appeared to be largely confined to strewn limbs, standing water and downed power lines. On Highway 288-B from Richwood into Freeport, several traffic signals dangled from their wires as police stood guard to ensure an unaware driver didn’t run into them. Lights were out along much of the stretch from FM 2004 through Clute at about 4:30 a.m., while Freeport — which expected to take a heavy smack from the storm — looked to be largely unscathed. Remnants of ponding water could be seen on several main streets and the side roads continued to drain, but aside from having to dodge the occasional branch, the city appeared ready to start an average day.
Surfside Beach will have a lot more work to do.
While the water has receded from Bluewater Highway, the road is largely impassable. Chunks of tree trunks, an untold number of limbs and the occasional overturned table cluttered the highway. Venturing a little more than half a mile on the road was enough to convince turning around was a good idea, even in a mid-sized pickup.
To the west along Fort Velasco Drive, the tide continued to flow under and around homes as well as across the road itself. None of the houses had any light to indicate they had electricity, and one home had its porch pushed across one of the village streets, new Police Chief Robert Wood said.
Wood, a veteran officer who last spent six years in Santa Fe, was officially working his second day on the job. It would have been his first if not for it being past midnight, and Nicholas provided an unusual welcome.
“Ya know they say it’s a hurricane party, so that’s what I’m gonna go with,” Wood said as the wind continued to whip through from the Gulf of Mexico.
Damage to village homes and buildings was limited, Wood said, mostly some shingles and trim. Cleanup will be extensive with the number of limbs.
The storm surge combined with the high tide when it arrived resulted in the Gulf meeting the bay at San Louis Pass, a rather unusual event, Wood said.
Shortly before dawn, signs of normal life were beginning to appear, though traffic remained minimal. Vehicles were making their way through the Shipley’s drive-through line, filling up their coffee cups and pickups at Buc-ee’s and pulling into work at the plants.
The Buc-ee's at Plantation Drive and Highway 332 in Lake Jackson wasn't serving sny coffee. Like many large sections of Lake Jackson, it remained dark at about 6:30 a.m., as did its nearby hotels and the Olin office space. What areas had power and which were without appeared random as Lowe's was fully lit but the strip center on its outlot — containing Buffalo Wild Wings, as T-Mobile store and the Sleep Number shop — all were dark.
More than 400,000 people were without power, a number that continued to grow as Houston and Galveston were next in line for Nicholas’ fury. Work to restore areas where the danger has passed is expected to start after sunrise.
Texas New-Mexico Power announced it will be updating the restored repair times for sections of its service area that are without electricity. Its system had been defaulting to a 1 p.m. Tuesday estimate, which in many cases won't be accurate, the company's news release states.
As of 7 a.m., the utility had almost 12,000 customers without power — roughly one-third of its total — in the 77515 zip code, which includes Angleton. It also reported 3,902 customers without power in Brazoria, 2,437 in West Columbia and 2,969 in Sweeny.
Lake Jackson will get to work today on its two main issues, cleanup and getting power restored.
"Light out all over. Trees down all over. Lots of business signs and canopies down," Mayor Gerald Roznovsky texted this morning. "Just a lot of mess. Our biggest issue is power,"
The city's power situation is reminiscent of Hurricane Ike in 2008, when some residential areas of Lake Jackson went weeks before electricity could be restored.
Sweeny is in similar condition, a post on its official Facebook page about 6 a.m. states. West Columbia is largely without power, the city reported, and officials urge people to stay home if at all possible.
The 7 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center shows Brazoria County is out of the heavy rainfall zone, which now covers a swath from Beaumont to New Orleans.