Tropical Storm Eta Potentially Threatens U.S. Gulf Oil Production

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November 10, 2020

At 9 a.m. CST, the center of Tropical Storm Eta was located over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico about 60 miles (100 km) north-northwest of the western tip of Cuba, November 10, 2020. Image courtesy NOAA/GOES

By Brian K. Sullivan (Bloomberg) –Tropical Storm Eta poses a potential threat to offshore oil and natural gas production in the western Gulf of Mexico as it gets ready to make a second landfall on the Florida coast toward the end of the week.

Eta’s forecast track shifted west overnight in the direction of at least some of the region’s offshore oil and gas facilities, said Don Keeney, a meteorologist with commercial forecaster Maxar. Where Eta eventually ends up may not become clear until later this week but the current expectation is that it will make landfall near Pensacola, Florida, late Saturday, perhaps weakening to a tropical depression in the process.

“It has really changed a lot since yesterday as far as the track goes,” Keeney said. “Until it starts moving north, bets are off in terms of the confidence in the forecast.”

Eta made landfall in the Florida Keys at around 11 p.m. local time on Sunday as the record 12th storm to hit the U.S. in a single year. Although it caused some damage to orange groves, the threat to crops is now over, Keeney said. Florida is the world’s second-largest producer of orange juice behind Brazil. Meanwhile, further to the east, Sub-Tropical Storm Theta has become the record-breaking 29th system of 2020.

Eta has already left a path of destruction through Central America and the Caribbean. It previously made landfall in Cuba early Sunday with 65-mile-per-hour (105-kilometer-per-hour) winds and heavy rains. The storm killed more than 100 people across Central America last week, according to the Associated Press.

Neighborhoods flooded across several parts of South Florida, including Miami’s Brickell Avenue financial district, where several banks and investment firms have their offices.

Eta adds to a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season that’s seen hundreds of deaths, and billions of dollars in damage. Overnight, Theta formed about 1,000 miles southwest of the Azores and is expected to drift east across the Atlantic through the next week, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

So many storms have formed this year that the hurricane center used up all the names on the official list by mid-September and has had to use Greek letters to designate subsequent systems. There is a 70% chance a 30th storm will form in the Caribbean Sea in the next five days.

Tropical Storm Eta

For the U.S., Eta’s destruction probably won’t match the tragedy still unfolding across Central America. The U.S. economic tally will probably be less than $100 million in insured losses, said Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler for Enki Research.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has declared an emergency in advance of Eta.

–With assistance from Jonathan Levin.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.


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