Tropical Storm Lee made landfall on the Louisiana coast, lashing the state with heavy rain and wind after shutting more than half of the oil and natural gas production from the resource-rich Gulf of Mexico.
Lee’s center reached the state’s southern coast, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory at 4:41 a.m. New York time, adding that the storm was about 80 miles (125 kilometers) west of Morgan City, Louisiana, and moving north at 2 mph. The storm’s maximum sustained winds were close to 45 mph and tropical storm-force winds stretched as far as 275 miles from its center.
Companies including Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC), BP Plc (BP/), Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Noble Corp. (NE) evacuated workers from Gulf rigs and platforms. About 60 percent of Gulf oil production and 55 percent of natural gas output has been shut by the storm, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. That equates to about 844,190 barrels of oil and 2.9 billion cubic feet of gas, the bureau said yesterday on its website.
The Gulf accounts for 27 percent of U.S. oil output and 6.5 percent of natural gas production. As much as 91 percent of gas and 98 percent of oil output in the Gulf may be shut in the next four days, according to Kinetic Analysis Corp., a Silver Spring, Maryland-based company that predicts the effects of natural disasters.
Oil and gas producers will be watching wind speeds and wave heights to determine whether and how long to shut operations, said Jan Vermeiren, chief executive officer of Kinetic Analysis.
“We’re not talking about Hurricane Gustav here, moving pipelines up and down Louisiana like it was spaghetti,” Williams said in a telephone interview. “This one isn’t a big story. It’s a wet story.” Gustav struck in 2008.
Ten to 15 inches (25 to 38 centimeters) of rain is expected to fall in an area from the central Gulf coast northward into the Tennessee Valley, with as much as 20 inches in some areas, according to the hurricane center. The Florida panhandle may see as much as eight inches of rain over the next several days. Rains will cause “extensive flooding,” the center said.
“A few tornadoes will be possible” over portions of southern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, southern Alabama and the far western Florida panhandle, the center also said.
The center of Lee is expected to move slowly across Louisiana today, causing many residents to lose power supplies. Bobby Jindal, the state’s governor, declared a state of emergency, saying the storm threatens “extremely heavy, prolonged” rain over the state and may cause flash flooding and high tides.
Thirty-five Louisiana parishes declared states of emergency and officials urged voluntary evacuations in parts of some areas in the southern part of the state. Yesterday, Jindal deployed some troops from the Louisiana National Guard to respond to any emergencies.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu extended a state of emergency he declared last week after a fire broke out in the eastern part of the city.
Storm warnings were posted for the Gulf coast from Destin, Florida, westward to Sabine Pass, Texas. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour declared a state of emergency in several counties expected to be hit with heavy rain and floods.
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