Thursday, August 24

Breaking News: Harvey now forecast to be major hurricane

Fom Reuters moments ago:
Tropical storm Harvey quickly strengthening, forecast to be a major hurricane when it approaches Texas coast: National Hurricane Center

Most at risk from floods are the Houston area and the Coastal Bend, a region which includes Corpus Christi. "We may be measuring rainfall in feet rather than inches. This is a potentially life threatening flooding situation."
-- Reuters, August 24 (see second report below)

The only good news is that for now the weather models are showing New Orleans will be spare the worst. As to Harvey's track when it morphs into a full-fledged hurricane -- the meteorologists are hard at work on the question. But right now the storm is definitely headed for the Texas Gulf region, which is home to more than 45 percent of America's oil refining operations and about 17 percent of the U.S. crude output and 5 percent of dry natural gas output.

Reuters, August 23 - 14 hours ago:
UPDATE 1-Oil companies evacuate workers as storm takes aim at Texas 

(Adds details on oil and gas operations and storm, Texas state of disaster)

HOUSTON, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell and Anadarko Petroleum announced production shut-ins affecting five Gulf of Mexico oil platforms on Wednesday ahead of a storm expected to lash the Texas coast with heavy winds and rain later this week.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch Wednesday for much of the Texas coast, calling for slow-moving Tropical Depression Harvey to intensify as it nears landfall.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster for 30 counties ahead of the storm.

Between 10 inches and 15 inches (25 cm to 38 cm) of rain are expected from the central Texas Coast to southwest Louisiana, with some areas receiving up to 20 inches of rain, according to the Miami-based NHC. [Pundita: The total could be 30 inches or higher]

"Heavy rainfall is likely to spread across portions of eastern Texas, Louisiana, and the lower Mississippi Valley from Friday through early next week and could cause life-threatening flooding," the NHC said in an advisory.

In Corpus Christi, city officials warned residents to expect a storm surge of between four feet and six feet (1.83 m) and began distributing sand bags to local residents.

The U.S. Gulf of Mexico is home to about 17 percent of the nation's crude output and 5 percent of dry natural gas output, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. More than 45 percent of the nation's refining capacity is along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Shell said it was evacuating all personnel from the roughly 100,000 barrel per day Perdido oil and gas production platform as a precaution. Anadarko said it had shut in production and was evacuating workers from its Boomvang, Gunnison, Lucius and Nansen platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Other Gulf of Mexico operators said they were watching developments closely but operations were unaffected.

Chevron on Wednesday afternoon said it had not evacuated any staff and BP Plc said normal operations were still underway. ConocoPhillips said it was making preparations but had not interrupted any operations.

Tropical Depression Harvey, which had top sustained winds of about 35 miles (55 km) per hour as it churned over Mexico's Bay of Campeche late Wednesday, could become a hurricane by Friday, the NHC said. 

(Reporting by Liz Hampton and Ruthy Munoz; Editing by Chris Reese and Tom Brown)


Reuters, August 24 - 12:23 AM EDT, latest update 25 minutes ago (prior to the Breaking News): 

Tropical storm Harvey heads for Texas, may become hurricane
Lead reporter: Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - The Texas Gulf Coast was bracing for Tropical Storm Harvey to make landfall by Friday, bringing with it powerful winds, torrential rains and the possibility that it could strengthen into a hurricane.
Harvey was about 370 miles (595 km) southeast of Port Mansfield, Texas, by early Thursday as it moved across the Gulf of Mexico with maximum sustained winds of 45 miles (72 km) per hour, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
U.S. benchmark gasoline prices RBc1 hit a three-week high on Thursday as the storm took aim at the center of the country's refining industry.
The storm has also forced energy companies including Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L), Anadarko Petroleum (APC.N) and Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) to evacuate staff from oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.
Hurricane, tropical storm and storm surge watches were in effect for counties along the Gulf Coast.
The biggest threat from Harvey is not its strong winds but the heavy rain, according to NHC forecaster Dennis Feltgen.
Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb said on Wednesday that flooding was his biggest concern.
The city, which is a major oil refining center, has not issued any evacuation orders, he told reporters at a news conference, but its emergency operations center has been activated.

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