Hurricanes will likely target western US Gulf in 2011 - forecast

22 December 2010 21:51  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Oil and chemical production areas along the western US Gulf of Mexico could be under siege from an active 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, a meteorologist said on Wednesday.

“Our hurricane landfall prediction model suggests increased chances of US landfall in 2011, with particularly enhanced probabilities in the western Gulf states,” said Todd Crawford, chief meteorologist with Weather Services International (WSI).

“The forecast numbers are quite similar to those prior to the 2008 season, when hurricanes Dolly, Gustav and Ike impacted Louisiana and Texas,” he added.

Hurricanes can disrupt the North American petrochemical industry, since oil and gas production is concentrated in Gulf of Mexico and much of the country's plants are on the US Gulf coast.

Even the threat of a major storm can disrupt oil and natural gas supplies, with companies having to evacuate Gulf platforms as a precaution.

No named storms (those with winds of at least 39 miles/hour, or 63 km/hour) made US landfall in 2010, though the outer bands of Hurricane Alex and Tropical Storm Hermine disrupted south Texas refineries after striking northern Mexico.

Several storms struck Mexico, leading to flooding and logistics problems throughout the region that lasted for weeks.

In 2008, chemical production sites were shut for weeks and in some cases months following the landfalls of Gustav and Ike.

In its initial 2011 season forecast, WSI projected 17 named storms, nine hurricanes (winds of at least 74 miles/hour) and five major hurricanes (winds of at least 111 miles/hour).

That matched a projection from Colorado State University meteorologists earlier this month, and comes well above historical averages of 10 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes per season.

“We expect another very active season in 2011, with above-normal Atlantic ocean temperatures and favourable wind shear conditions,” Crawford said.

The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season will last from 1 June until 30 November.

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By: Ben DuBose
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