Weather

Hidalgo Asks Harris County Residents To Stay Put Monday Night Due To Nicholas

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said she'd spoken twice with Gov. Greg Abbott Monday about Tropical Storm Nicholas.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said she'd spoken twice with Gov. Greg Abbott Monday about Tropical Storm Nicholas. Screenshot
As the first bands of rain from the edges of Tropical Storm Nicholas continued to drop water across greater Houston, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo spoke Monday afternoon about the county’s response to the fast-approaching storm.

“We could get 10 to 15 inches of rain over the next 24 hours or so, and that would be very very concerning for whatever areas of our community receive that much rain,” Hidalgo said. “We could have rain two to three inches an hour, which many of our bayous and channels are not able to withstand.”

Harris County’s emergency management office is currently at alert level 2, the second highest level, according to Hidalgo. “If we begin to hear of structure flooding, we will raise the level to level one,” she said.

Hidalgo said she had spoken to Gov. Greg Abbott  twice Monday to discuss storm preparation efforts, and was told that CenterPoint Energy has sent its crews working to restore power in Louisiana after Hurricane Ida back to Texas to respond to potential Nicholas-induced outages. Additionally, Hidalgo said Abbott told her he was planning to make an official disaster declaration for Harris County and other parts of Texas set to be affected by Nicholas.


Hidalgo announced all county facilities — including courthouses — would be closed through Tuesday. “If anything changes, we will let folks know, but if you had a court date [or] any business with the county after 5 p.m. today and through the end of the day tomorrow, all of that is cancelled.” City municipal courts will also be closed after 5 p.m. Monday and all day Tuesday.

Earlier Monday, both Harris County Public Health and the Houston Health Department announced all of their COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites would be closed Tuesday as well.

Hidalgo’s main request to county residents echoed that of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner earlier Monday: stay off the roads Monday night and plan to stay put possibly all day Tuesday.

“This has the potential to be a very dangerous storm for our county, particularly the more you head toward the southeast,” Hidalgo said. “So what I need each resident of this county to do today is to get where you are going to be by 6 p.m. tonight, and then plan to stay there overnight and perhaps through tomorrow.”

“Do not drive through flooded roadways,” Hidalgo implored. “All the folks who lose their cars, the folks who lose their lives during a heavy rain, they don’t go in there thinking their car is going to flood. They don't go in there thinking they're going to be the ones to lose control. But the truth of the matter is it happens every time.”

“All the folks who lose their cars, the folks who lose their lives during a heavy rain, they don’t go in there thinking their car is going to flood. They don't go in there thinking they're going to be the ones to lose control. But the truth of the matter is it happens every time.” - Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo

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Nicholas wasn’t the only reason Hidalgo spoke to the public Monday; She also discussed a resolution denouncing Texas’ new “heartbeat bill” abortion law which she plans to ask Harris County Commissioners Court to adopt during its meeting tomorrow.

Hidalgo said she felt a responsibility as the sole woman on Commissioners Court to push for the county to formally speak out against the new abortion law. She decried the way the law is enforced through a bounty system, where anyone can sue any doctor who performs an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected (typically six weeks after conception, and well before most women realize they are pregnant) or anyone who “aids or abets” someone in getting such an abortion for up to $10,000 in damages.

The threat of dealing with waves of expensive lawsuits has already caused many abortion clinics in Texas to either dramatically downsize their operations or to close entirely.

“A storm is coming tonight, and that should remind us of the importance of unity, of how we do better when we’re united,” Hidalgo said. “The kind of law that pits us against each other is not what we need, has no place in this nation, and has no place in a diverse community like ours. It’s dangerous to go down that path, and we need to call out any attempts to sow division.”

Hidalgo also begged residents not to attend the highly anticipated Harry Styles concert that was set to be held at Toyota Center Monday night. Minutes after Hidalgo asked Styles’ fans to stay home to avoid potentially dangerous floodwaters, Styles himself tweeted that the concert would not take place after all.

In response to the flood threat from Nicholas, the University of Houston closed its campus at 3 p.m. Monday, and UH President Renu Khator said the school will remain shut down on Tuesday. Houston Community College also closed all of its campuses as of 2 p.m. Monday and will remain closed Tuesday; all HCC classes, in-person and online, have been canceled for Tuesday.

Rice University has decided to go forward with classes on Tuesday, shifting all in-person classes to be held online instead of cancelling them. Similarly, South Texas College of Law decided to move all classes to remote delivery as of 5:30 p.m. Monday and through Tuesday.

METRO Houston announced late Monday afternoon that it would suspend local bus and light rail service at 7 p.m. Monday. A METRO press release stated the department would “continue to monitor the severe weather” on Tuesday and will resume service “only when it is safe to do so.” The city of Houston’s Solid Waste Management Department also announced Monday afternoon that trash pickup and all of its other services will be suspended all day Tuesday due to Nicholas “to ensure the department’s employee safety.”

All Houston Public Library branches will be closed Tuesday.

Alongside Hidalgo, Houston City Councilmember Abbie Kamin urged city residents to bring their trash bins inside if they’d already put them out for their regular Tuesday pickup. She said all trash pickups, including those cancelled Tuesday, would resume Wednesday.

“We don’t want to see bins going down the street and floating down the street,” Kamin said. “We also don’t want trash and debris blocking drains and ditches.”
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Schaefer Edwards is a staff writer at the Houston Press who covers local and regional news. A lifelong Texan and adopted Houstonian, he loves NBA basketball and devouring Tex-Mex while his cat watches in envy.
Contact: Schaefer Edwards