16 September 2010 22:12 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS)--Karl strengthened into a hurricane on Thursday and could get stronger before it hits the central coast of Mexico on Friday, forecasters said on Thursday.
As of the 16:00 hours Houston time (21:00 GMT) update from the US National Hurricane Center, Karl had winds of 80 miles/hour (207km/hour) and was moving west at 12 miles/hour. The storm was in the Bay of Campeche, 165 miles east of Veracruz, Mexico.Karl could grow into a major hurricane with sustained winds of at least 111 miles/hour (179 km/hour), forecasters said, and have the potential to cause extensive to catastrophic wind damage. Karl would be the first tropical system to make landfall this season as a major hurricane.
Hurricanes can disrupt the North American petrochemical industry, since oil and gas production is concentrated in Gulf of Mexico and much of the region's plants are on the Gulf coast.
Earlier this year, Hurricane Alex and Tropical Storm Hermine disrupted plant operations and logistics in northern Mexico. Some of the same areas could be impacted by Karl, particularly from its outer rain bands - which are more prevalent on the northern and eastern sides of the storm.
Karl could make landfall near Petroleos Mexicanos’ (Pemex) Escolin petrochemical complex and its Madero refinery, both of which are on the central Gulf coast.
The Madero refinery can process 151,800 bbl/day and produce 160,700 bbl/day.
Farther inland are Pemex's Salamanca and Tula refineries and its Tuila and Independencia petrochemical complexes.
Hurricane warnings were issued along the coast from Veracruz to Cabo Rojo, meaning hurricane conditions (winds of at least 74 miles/hour) are expected somewhere in the area within 36 hours.
Forecasters said environmental conditions along the storm’s path were conducive for strengthening, with warm sea surface temperatures and light vertical wind shear.
As such, Karl could strengthen rapidly before landfall, according to the forecasts.
Karl made landfall on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula on Wednesday as a tropical storm, carrying winds near 60 miles/hour and heavy rains as it moved across the peninsula.
Hurricanes Igor and Julia also remained active in the central Atlantic Ocean, but both were expected to remain at sea.
The Atlantic hurricane season lasts through 30 November, with its typical peak from mid-August until early October. Meteorologists expect an active storm season this year.
Additional reporting by Al Greenwood
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