Isaac Reaches Hurricane Strength, 93% of U.S. Gulf Shut-In [UPDATED]

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August 28, 2012

This visible image of Tropical Storm Isaac taken from NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite shows the huge extent of the storm, where the eastern-most clouds lie over the Carolinas and the western-most clouds are brushing east Texas. The image was captured on Aug. 28 at 8:40 a.m. EDT. Credit: NASA GOES Project

UPDATE: The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Hurricane Response Team has reported that approximately 93.28 percent of the current daily oil production in the Gulf of Mexico has been shut-in as a result of what is now Hurricane Isaac. As of 1 p.m. CDT, BSEE says that 503 platforms have been evacuated, representing 84.4% of the U.S Gulf of Mexico, along with 49 rigs, or 64.47% of the Gulf. BSEE also says that 93.28% of current daily oil production and 66.7% of gas production has been shut-in.

(Bloomberg) — Hurricane Isaac developed near the mouth of the Mississippi River today on a path that may take it near New Orleans and bring flooding rain to the lower Mississippi Valley, the National Hurricane Center said.

Isaac was 75 miles (121 kilometers) south-southeast of the river’s opening with top winds of 75 miles per hour, the center said in a special advisory at 11:20 a.m. local time. It’s moving northwest at 10 mph on a track to landfall in southern Louisiana today or early tomorrow as a Category 1 storm.

Isaac’s largest threat will be coastal flooding from a storm surge that may reach as high as 12 feet (3.7 meters) above normal if the system strikes at high tide. As much as 7 to 14 inches of rain may fall across parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana where cotton, beans and rice are waiting to be harvested.

Output Curtailed

Isaac has halted 78 percent of U.S. oil production in the Gulf, 48 percent of natural-gas output and forced evacuations from 346 production platforms and 41 rigs, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said yesterday. Four refineries in Louisiana were shut and others were running at reduced rates, idling 10 percent of Gulf Coast capacity.

The Gulf region is home to 23 percent of U.S. oil output, 7 percent of natural gas and 44 percent of refining capacity.

President Barack Obama declared an emergency for Louisiana, authorizing agencies to coordinate relief efforts. He urged residents today no to “tempt fate.”

The storm, which has winds extending 185 miles from its core, is forecast to hit Louisiana almost exactly seven years after Hurricane Katrina pounded ashore, levees protecting New Orleans failed and 1,800 people died.

Warning Zone

A hurricane warning is in effect from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border, including New Orleans.

The storm’s winds may peak at 80 mph and it may go ashore with sustained winds of 75 mph, according to a hurricane center discussion. Yesterday, the center forecast the storm may reach Category 2 strength with maximum winds of 100 mph or more.

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the largest point of entry for crude coming into the U.S., stopped offloading tankers yesterday at the marine terminal, according to its website. Louisiana’s Port Fourchon, a base for support services to the Gulf’s deep-water oil and gas facilities was shutting yesterday, said Chett Chiasson, the port director.

The U.S. Coast Guard has closed the ports of New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama, as Isaac approaches, according to postings on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Homeport website.

-By Brian K. Sullivan. Copyright 2012 Bloomberg
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