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Millions brace as Hurricane Harvey menaces Texas, Louisiana
by Staff Writers
Chicago (AFP) Aug 25, 2017

Gulf platforms shut in, cleared ahead of Harvey
Washington (UPI) Aug 24, 2017 - After clearing staff from four Gulf of Mexico installations, Anadarko Petroleum said it shut down operations until threats from Tropical Storm Harvey clear.

Anadarko operates 10 installations in the Gulf of Mexico and removed non-essential staff from four of those as Harvey gained strength earlier this week

"We continue to closely monitor the weather conditions in the Gulf of Mexico, and given the potential path of Harvey, we have safely removed all personnel and temporarily shut in production at our operated Boomvang, Gunnison, Lucius and Nansen facilities," the company stated. "These facilities will remain shut-in until the weather has cleared, and it is safe to return our people to these offshore locations."

The National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla, issued a hurricane warning for the Texas coast from Port

Mansfield to Matagorda. After losing strength earlier this week, Harvey reformed as a tropical storm and should move quickly toward the southern Texas coast. Hurricane conditions are likely by late Friday.

British energy company BP, which operates four production facilities in the Gulf of Mexico, said it was closely monitoring the storm system. The company said normal operations continue at all of its operated offshore facilities at this time.

Anadarko said it was prepared to take further steps in the Gulf of Mexico if necessary. Harvey would be the first hurricane to hit Texas in nearly a decade if forecasts are accurate.

The Gulf of Mexico accounts for about 20 percent of total U.S. production. Offshore oil production is on pace to increase nearly 9 percent next year to about 1.85 million barrels per day.

For retail gasoline prices, the largest one-month increase on record in the United States was Aug. 5 to Sept. 4, 2005, when prices jumped 75 cents largely because of Hurricane Katrina.

The 2017 hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.

Millions of people in the US Gulf Coast states of Texas and Louisiana braced for the arrival of Hurricane Harvey as it intensified to category two with winds whipping up to 100 miles (160 kilometers) an hour.

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned that Harvey was "rapidly intensifying" and creating a potential for "life-threatening and devastating" floods as it roared toward an area that processes some seven million barrels of oil a day.

The storm's center was due to make landfall sometime early Saturday, with preceding strong winds arriving as early as 8:00 am (1300 GMT) Friday.

Harvey was bearing northwest at 10 miles (16 kilometers) per hour as of midnight central time (0500 GMT), but the NHC said the category one hurricane could hit land as a much more powerful category three, with winds of 130 miles (209 kilometers) per hour.

If forecasts hold, Harvey would be the strongest hurricane to hit the US mainland in 12 years.

"For anyone who has not already evacuated, please hurry to do so," the city of Portland, Texas declared on its website in capital letters.

The storm was menacing one-third of the US refining capacity, forcing several energy companies to take precautions and evacuate personnel from oil and gas platforms in the heart of the US "Refinery Row."

One oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico was evacuated Thursday, as well as 39 manned oil and natural gas production platforms, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

Those evacuations represented an estimated 9.5 percent of oil production and 14.7 percent of natural gas production in the Gulf, the Bureau said.

- Floods, storm surges expected -

The storm was expected to dump as much as 35 inches (89 centimeters) of rain in some parts of Texas. Dangerous storm surges were also forecast to reach between six and 12 feet (1.8 and 3.7 meters) above ground level in the worst-hit regions.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued disaster declarations in 30 counties, saying the preemptive move would allow the state "to quickly deploy resources for the emergency response effort."

Officials in Houston, the biggest city in the path of the storm, said they did not anticipate issuing evacuation orders, but expected heavy rainfall to last up to five days. City schools canceled classes through Monday.

"Houston will see close to 20 inches of rainfall," officials said in a statement. "This is likely to cause dangerous flash flooding, and will cause area flooding throughout the entire Houston region."

Corpus Christi -- a major oil refining center where the hurricane was projected to make landfall Saturday morning -- issued voluntary evacuation orders. The nearby coastal hamlets of Port Arkansas and Arkansas Pass both ordered mandatory evacuations.

A number of other municipalities in Texas also ordered evacuations.

- Refining hub -

US President Donald Trump weighed in with a tweet: "As #HurricaneHarvey intensifies - remember to #PlanAhead."

In neighboring Louisiana where the storm was forecast to hover for many days and could deluge flood-prone New Orleans, Governor John Bel Edwards said he spoke with the president who "offered his full support."

"This is going to play out over the next week or so," Edwards told a news conference, "which makes it particularly dangerous... because the longer it sits in one place the more rain that it will drop."

Edwards issued an emergency declaration for his entire state, as hundreds of boats were made ready for potential rescues along with more than half a million sandbags to hold back flood waters.

In New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused widespread flooding and killed more than 1,800 people, Mayor Mitch Landrieu told journalists that high-water rescue vehicles and boats were at the ready.

"We just need to make sure that we're prepared for heavy rain over the course of the next week," Landrieu said, adding that there were no evacuations planned.

This is the first major storm of the annual Atlantic hurricane season.

The Gulf region is only midway through the season, and has so far had eight storms that did not cause much concern, said Phil Klotzbach, an atmospheric scientist at Colorado State University.

"The tropical Atlantic remains warmer than normal," Klotzbach told AFP, "so we are expecting an above-average overall season."

According to analyst Phil Flynn of the Price Futures Group, the region in Harvey's path is vital to the US refining industry "running about seven million barrels a day."

"Harvey's greatest risk to refiners is not just wind damage to the refineries, but also the associated rainfall and the potential for electric power failure," said James Williams of WTRG Economics.

Should a refinery shut down, he said it could take a week to get it up and running again.

The eye of the storm: Hong Kong's all-powerful observatory
Hong Kong (AFP) Aug 23, 2017
As Hong Kong battens down for Typhoon Hato, weather-obsessed residents are glued to updates from the historic observatory which has the power to shut down the city with a signal. Early Wednesday the observatory issued Hong Kong's highest level Typhoon 10 warning, bringing the city to a standstill with schools shut, hundreds of flights cancelled, and the stock market closed. The typhoon h ... read more

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