Tropical storm warning issued for parts of US Gulf Coast

Author: Janet Miranda

2021/06/17

HOUSTON (ICIS)--A tropical storm warning has been issued for the US Gulf Coast, including Louisiana, where a system is expected to approach the north-central Gulf Coast late Friday or early Saturday.

The system is currently over the Bay of Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico, along the southern Mexican coast as a collection of disorganised showers. The system is moving north at nearly 9 miles/hour (15 km/hour).

Meteorologists forecast the system will form into Tropical Storm Claudette and bring heavy rainfall and flooding to the northern Gulf Coast, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Maximum sustained winds are near 30 miles/hour with higher gusts. Some strengthening is forecast tonight and Friday.

The following figure shows the probable path of the storm.

Source: NOAA

Hurricanes and tropical storms can disrupt the North American petrochemical industry, because many of the nation's plants and refineries are along the US Gulf Coast in the states of Texas and Louisiana.

The Gulf of Mexico federal offshore oil production accounts for 17% of total US crude oil production and federal offshore natural gas production in the Gulf accounts for 5% of total US dry production, according to the US Energy Information Agency (EIA).

Even the threat of a major storm can disrupt oil and natural gas supplies because companies often evacuate US Gulf platforms as a precaution.

Over 45% of total US petroleum refining capacity is located along the Gulf coast, as well as 51% of total US natural gas processing plant capacity.

Petrochemical markets are already tight because of problems caused by logistical constraints, winter storms and 2020's busy hurricane season.

If the storm makes landfall in southern Louisiana, flood gates in the state could be closed.

When the flood gates are closed, it prevents interchange among railroad companies with eastern carriers. That would cause delays in rail shipments.

The storm could also shut down power, which could disrupt petrochemical complexes in the area.

The cyclone comes on the heels on experts forecasting a busy hurricane season, with hurricane researchers at Colorado State University (CSU) raising their prediction on the number of named storms to 18.

Of those eight could become hurricanes and four could become a major hurricane with sustained winds at 74 miles/hour or higher.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a 60% chance of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, although it does not anticipate the historic level of storm activity seen in 2020.

Additional reporting by Al Greenwood

Thumbnail image shows the expected path of the storm. Map by NOAA.