Hurricane Sally remains on Gulf Coast near Alabama, Florida

Author: Al Greenwood

2020/09/16

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Hours after making landfall on Wednesday, Hurricane Sally remains on the Gulf Coast near the border between the states of Alabama and Florida, pouring enormous amounts of rain into the region.

Hurricane Sally missed the corridor of chemical plants and refineries that are further west in the state of Louisiana. A couple had shut down as a precaution, but most maintained normal operations as they monitored the storm.

Sally did shut down ports and a rail yard in Mobile, Alabama. Power companies in Alabama and Florida reported more than half a million outages, according to PowerOutage.US.

STORM DETAILS
Sally remains a hurricane with maximum sustained wind speeds of 80 miles/hour (130 km/hour), according to the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane-force winds extend up to 35 miles from the centre of the storm.

Sally should continue weakening as it moves inland, becoming a tropical depression by Thursday morning.

The following map shows the path of the storm.

Source: National Hurricane Center

Sally remains on the Gulf Coast five hours after making landfall, causing the storm to pour large amounts of rain in the region. Pensacola, Florida, and Gulf Shores, Alabama, could receive up to 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm is moving slowly at 5 miles/hour, so more parts of the southeastern US could be hit with heavy rains.

Sally will produce 8-12 inches of additional rain through the afternoon. Rainfall totals could reach 10-20 inches, with some parts receiving as much as 35 inches, according to the National Hurricane Center. It warned of historic and catastrophic flooding.

Through Friday, central Alabama to central Georgia could receive 4-8 inches of rain, with some parts receiving 12 inches, the centre said. Significant flash floods are likely.

Western South Carolina and western and central North Carolina could receive 4-6 inches of rain, with some parts of the states receiving as much as 9 inches.

The following shows the regions vulnerable to flash floods.

Source: National Hurricane Center

A few tornadoes could form on Wednesday and later into the night, the centre said.

LOGISTICS
Norfolk Southern railroad shut down operations at its yard in Mobile, Alabama because of the storm.

Meanwhile, the flood gates in New Orleans will start to open, and Norfolk Southern expects normal rail operations to resume over the next 24 hours. Customers should expect delays of 48-72 hours while the flood gates open.

When the flood gates are closed, any interchange with eastern carriers is prevented.

The ports of New Orleans, Mobile, Alabama, and Pascagoula, Mississippi, are closed with a condition of Zulu. When a port is under Zulu, gale force winds of at least 39 miles/hour are expected to arrive within 12 hours.

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) has suspended operations at the Marine terminal, it said. There are no interruptions at the Clovelly hub.

The LOOP is an offshore oil terminal that is 20 miles from the coast. It is the only US port capable of fully loading a very large crude carrier (VLCC).

PLANTS
Alabama and the western portion of the Florida panhandle have few chemical plants.

Earlier in the week, forecasters warned that Sally could make landfall near the eastern portion of Louisiana, which caused a couple of plants to shut down as a precaution.

Phillips 66 shuts its Alliance refinery in Belle Chasse, Louisiana, ahead of the storm, the company said.

Cornerstone Chemical has begun to reduce rates and idle certain units at its plant in Fortier, Louisiana, the company said. It did not specify which units it would shut down. The idled plants will remain shut through the storm. The company makes acrylonitrile (ACN) and melamine.

Most other chemical plants and refineries in eastern Louisiana are maintaining normal operations while monitoring the storm.

OIL
Hurricanes and tropical storms can disrupt oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico by causing companies to evacuate platforms and shut-in wells.

The Gulf of Mexico hosts several offshore oil wells, accounting for 17% of the nation's crude production, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Oil companies had just recovered from Hurricane Laura when Sally began to form.

As of mid-day on Tuesday, producers had shut in 497,072 bbl/day, just under 29% of total US Gulf oil output, the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said. Producers had shut in 759.72 million cubic feet (mcf)/day of gas, 28% of total gas output. Producers had shut in 21% of oil and 25% of oil on Monday.

Personnel were evacuated from 149 production platforms, just over 23% of the 643 manned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Production platforms are the offshore structures from which oil and natural gas are produced. Unlike drilling rigs, which can be moved, production facilities remain in the same location throughout a project’s duration.

Additional reporting by John Donnelly

Click here to view the US Gulf storms – impacts on chemicals topic page.

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