Waiting for Nicholas

That wonderful tropical sky

Newly arrived in hurricane country, it took time for me to recognize one of the quirkier realities of life on the Texas coast. Prior to a tropical system’s arrival, the weather often is glorious. Good weather provides time to slap plywood on windows or make a final trip for supplies; while it may tempt the unwary into a false sense of security, it gives the already-prepared a bit of breathing room ahead of the storm.

Yesterday was a day to breathe: not only to breathe in the color-rich sunrise and sunset, but also to delight in a blue-sky day arching above the treasures of the beach.

Beach morning glory (Ipomoea imperati)
A Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla) enjoying the surf
A Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) sipping from Beach Tea (Croton punctatus)
Washed up ~ perhaps soon to be washed out

Now, the rain bands have arrived, while offshore winds and wave heights are increasing.  It’s time to pause, to go inside, and wait to see what will be left in Nicholas’s wake.

Comments always are welcome.

60 thoughts on “Waiting for Nicholas

    1. The weekend was wonderful, especially since both the temperatures and the humidity had lowered. I hadn’t been to the beach in about three months, partly because of summer crowds and partly because of the heat. Now, things are calming down, and I’m looking forward to more visits.

  1. From the most recent weather report I watched, Nicholas is expected to be officially a tropical storm or barely a hurricane—a welcome change from the last hit. Good luck.

    That’s good lighting on your beach morning glory.

    Regarding the gull’s scientific binomial, the first part of the genus name is from the Greek word for white, while the first part of the species name is from a Latin word for black.

    1. One of the ‘advantages’ of having a new tropical storm follow so closely on the heels of another is that preparation time is minimal; fill up the gas tank, get some extra cash, be sure the coffee supply’s topped off, and everything’s good. At the marinas, the clear consensus is that this one’s going to involve rain rather than wind, and boats deal well with rain. If people can keep from driving through flooded streets, we’ll be good.

      I really worked with that beach morning glory. The strength of the light’s obvious from the shadows. None of the photos I tried with the sun behind me really worked out, so I thought I’d give backlighting a try, and I was pleased with the result. As for the binomial, I’m not surprised at the choice. The black and white contrast on the bird is striking.

    1. Believe me, GP, I was happy to have a pleasant, sunny day for once. I got an early start, picked up a friend on Galveston’s west end, and we had a few nice hours before the heat built again. It was fun to see some nice sky color, too. After Nicholas passes, there ought to be more nice sunsets.

  2. That’s a very nice perspective on your final shot. It makes the sea rise in the frame rather than flattening out like it so often does in beach photos. It looks like you’ll dodge serious wind with Nicholas and I hope you don’t get an overwhelming amount of rain. Hunker down and enjoy the show, if you can.

    1. I appreciate your comment about that last photo. I got ‘down and dirty’ to make the image, with my lens about 4″ above the sand. That allowed only the near-shore breakers to show, and not the flatter water beyond.

      I’ve been so oblivious I had to check the records to see how we got from Ida to Nicholas. Now I remember hearing about Kate, Julian, Larry, and Mindy — but they barely registered. With luck, Nicholas will barely register, either.

    1. That’s what a lot of people down here are saying: we’ll take rain, but not too much. It does sound like the coastal regions are going to get the worst of it, but the thing’s been a little wonky. At least there’s no indication it’s going to build into a truly serious wind event. Meanwhile, 60 NM off Freeport, the Little Buoy That Could still is recording images of gusts now up to 56 knots.

    1. It was fun to find some nice subjects for photos, even though the beaches have been swept remarkably clean by recent storms and tides. Sometimes, post-storm beaches offer even more rewards; we’ll see how things go.

  3. Hi Linda, I’ve been watching the models as this storm has developed. Your post is really beautiful and I’ve shared a link to it on twitter, will do the same on fb. Thanks for sharing how beautiful this environment is. Prayers for you in TX and for SW-LA. Are you on the coast on the LA side of Houston? I hope you stay nice and dry as Nicholas comes through!

    1. I’m not on the coast. Here’s a map that shows where I am: halfway between Houston and Galveston, and nearer to Galveston Bay than to the Gulf. By land or by sea, it’s about 25 miles to Galveston from here. We’re not going to stay dry, but they’re saying we may only have 6″-12″ of additional rain overnight and into tomorrow, and winds may top out around 60 mph. I’ll bring in the bird feeders and the trash cans, and call it good.

      1. Was just hoping you stay nice and dry inside, but also assuming you’re all good. The map link didn’t work for me but I’ve now got a rough idea of your location. The lower temps/humidity must be a relief. Re the photos I love the laughing gull both for its looks and name. Do laughing gulls sound more like they’re laughing than other gulls?

  4. The skies are usually beautiful just prior to and right after a storm’s approach and departure. Your sky is evidence of that. The morning glory is glorious. And I hope the hairstreak finds safe haven, the coast is still intact and not too changed after Nicholas passes by. Maybe “only” 6-12 inches but that is nothing for that gull to laugh at. Hope the model stays true and your neighborhood is just skirted by the heavy stuff.

    1. Tonight, a lot of Houstonians are talking about this sky. Lemon yellow sometimes appears, too. I remember the lemon-colored sky before Humberto, many years ago. It was the prettiest storm sky I’ve ever seen.

      This has been an interesting storm to track. Tonight, it’s strengthened into hurricane territory, but it’s also seeming reluctant to come ashore. If it stays over water and keeps strengthening, there are thoughts that the Texas/Louisiana border might see more effects. One thing’s certain: it will come ashore, eventually. It just takes time.

      1. What a soft and lovely sky. It belies what may follow. I am sure many would like to see it come and be over with, especially if a delay means a stronger storm. Hope it continues to just threaten you with heavy rain and no destructive winds.

    1. Just now, it’s all rain and very little wind — good sleeping weather. Our turn is coming, but it will be a while yet. This isn’t one I’ve fussed over. I hope it stays well behaved, for everyone’s sake. Most of all, I hope it doesn’t head to Louisiana. They’ve had enough; it’s our turn!

    1. Isn’t that morning glory nice? It was fun to find some nice, clean stretches of beach, too. It’s going to be interesting to see what the same spot looks like once I can get back down there. It’s always fun exploring the tideline after a storm.

    1. There was a lot to behold, and a lot of enjoy on this day. Best of all, I was able to introduce a friend to a stretch of beach she’d never visited. That doubled the fun.

    1. Things were a little rocky south of us where the storm came ashore; some of my friends are without power and the roads that typically flood are water-covered, but we escaped without any serious damage. Sixty mph winds strip a lot of leaves and small branches, but the birds are back at the feeders. For some reason, they seem especially hungry this morning!

  5. Gorgeous set of photos. I’m guessing you’re pretty wet? We didn’t get any rain, which is too bad because we need it. Hoping you’re safe and dry and that beautiful blue skies will return soon!

    1. We got about 8″ overnight. Now, the rain has stopped, as has the wind. There are a lot of cypress leaves and branches down, but they were beginning to drop their leaves anyway, and the storm just encouraged them along. The water levels are up, but once the tide falls, the bayous will start to drain, and we’ll be headed to normal. I need to clean up the patio, but I’m going to wait until after the birds and squirrels have had their breakfast.

    1. We’re in pretty good shape. Texas-New Mexico power expects to have everyone in Galveston and Brazoria counties back online by 7 p.m. tonight. I suspect it will be longer around Matagorda County, but that’s to be expected. We had about 8″ of rain and minimal winds — about 50 mph. I slept through the whole thing.

  6. Gorgeous photos! I heard that Nicholas was downgraded, but was supposed to be moving VERY SLOWLY & could potentially dump a lot of rain on you. I hope someone gooses him in the side & he gets out of there more quickly than expected!

    1. By the time I got up this morning, Nicholas had moved on. Easy come, easy go. The after-effects are the familiar ones (power loss, high water) but I expect within a day or so those will have eased. Because this wasn’t a wind event, a lot of problems common to stronger hurricanes never happened — and for that we’re all grateful! There’s a lot of debris to be cleaned up on coastal roads, and higher winds down the coast took down some gas station canopies and such, but it wasn’t catastrophic.

  7. Your beach photos are exquisite. I think I love these as much or more than anything you’ve ever done. I hope you are free from Nicholas’ wrath and that he doesn’t do much damage to your city or your wildlife areas. I think I worry more about cities recovering than nature, which seems to do an admirably good job under the most dire circumstances.

    1. I’m not surprised you like these photos. After all, beaches are one thing we share, together with our love of them.

      When I got up this morning, Nicholas was already gone. There are a lot of leaves and small branches to be cleaned up once things dry out a bit, but things here will soon be back to normal. There are the usual spots with high water and scattered power outages, but in our area conditions aren’t much different than after a heavy summer thunderstorm. Down the coast, it will take a little more work to set things right, and other areas will get more rain that we did. After living through Harvey, 8″ of rain is tolerable!

    1. Isn’t that sky pretty? Maybe we’ll get a similar one tonight. The rain’s over here, and the clouds seem to be thinning. We got about 8″ of rain, and the crews are out clearing debris from the roads. The Bolivar ferry’s running again, and the power crews are doing their thing. On we go!

  8. Stay safe, Linda. Hurricanes can be very unpredictable. I hope you don’t lose power (that was always so annoying!) and that you’re not inundated by heavy rains. That’s a stunning shot of the morning glory — I never realized those things grow on the beach, too!

    1. I’m laughing, Debbie. I need to get a new post up, pronto! Nicholas has come and gone. The birds and squirrels are at the feeders, the power’s on, and the coffee’s fresh. When I got up this morning, the rain and wind had stopped, and I expect by the end of the day to see blue skies. There are some water and debris covered roads, and where the storm came ashore there’s some damage, but it’s nothing like we’ve seen with stronger storms. All in all, we did very well.

      1. I’m glad there wasn’t much damage. Your ‘calm before the storm’ pictures are beautiful and make me want to go to a beach.

        1. It’s just as calm now, after the storm — although there are a lot of branches and twigs to be collected, and a good number of downed trees to deal with. By this afternoon, some of the coastal roads had been cleared of debris, and the Galveston ferry is running again. Once they get the power back on for everyone, it will be business-as-sort-of-usual. We certainly were lucky, and I hope Nicholas loses energy quickly.

  9. we didn’t get that glorious sunset but the very air was orange. Nickolas just skipped right by us. ½” or rain or less. some high wind starting about 5PM but over by 1AM. lots of dead downed branches and twigs.

    1. It rained on and off here all afternoon, thanks to rotating bands from Nicholas. But it was light and drizzly, and not at all unpleasant. Rain totals varied considerably; it seems a combination of high tide and wind-drive surge did as much damage as the rain. There was a lot of twig and branch collecting going on here, too, and I sure did laugh when I saw the advice offered by our NWS office: “If you’ve never used a chain saw, this isn’t the day to learn.”

  10. Nice album! I like that morning glory shot in particular. Wow, 8″ of rain, I heard my relatives in NJ were getting that kind of rain from Ida and Floyd, we’ve really got to figure out how to share all this wealth with California and all the other drought areas. Yeah, downed trees and half-broken limbs, especially when there’s strong winds, are a terrible time to experiment with chainsaws, always amazed at the guys I see with no shin guards, steel-toe boots or face shield, in precarious poses with chips a’flyin’, the ERs are busy enough already.

    1. I’ll say this: people who know what they’re doing can work miracles with those chainsaws. The morning after Ike came ashore, I had to drive from Tyler to Nacogdoches. It was about 65 miles, and the whole way the roads already were clear of trees and limbs; the people who lived along the road were hours and hours ahead of the state road crews.

      Here’s an amusing side note. My aunt called me last night, panic-stricken because she’d heard on tv that Galveston got 14″ of rain. In fact, Galveston got just over 4″. The 14″ report was an error, which the National Weather Service office corrected post-haste, but it never got corrected on the national news. It seems like “trust, but verify” applies to everything these days.

        1. Since Ida and Nicholas, there’s been a lot of talking around here about Katrina, Rita, and Ike. I’ve been thinking about reposting my piece about Galveston’s post-Ike chainsaw sculptures; I believe I might do that.

    1. I took these photos mid-morning. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky at that point, so the light was quite strong. I had to change my approach, because the flowers that had the sun shining directly on them were washing out. So, I decided to try for a backlit image, and it worked. I still haven’t found a good spot near home for sunset/sunrise photos, but we’re moving into the time of year when sunsets and sunrises can be especially pretty; I need to do some more looking.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Michael. I’ve not been back to see how things look post-storm, but perhaps I’ll give it a try tomorrow. All of the roads are clear now and the water’s down a good bit. It should be interesting to see how things look.

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