Harvey Set to Bring ‘Catastrophic’ Flooding Across Texas

By , Laura Blewitt and | August 23, 2017

Harvey, which could strengthen into the first hurricane to strike Texas since 2008, forced workers off Gulf of Mexico platforms, sent cotton rallying and has airlines preparing for flight disruptions.

Tropical Storm Harvey, which has shut oil and natural gas platforms and triggered a rally in cotton prices, is on track to strike Texas late Friday with hurricane force winds and life-threatening flooding from Corpus Christi to Houston.

Harvey’s top winds strengthened to 60 miles (97 kilometers) per hour, up from 45 mph earlier, as it bears down on the Texas coast about 335 miles southeast of Port Mansfield, according to a National Hurricane Center advisory at 7 a.m. local time. The storm is expected to be packing winds of as high as 96 mph when it makes landfall.

It could develop into a hurricane just before landfall.

“It could intensify right up to landfall on Friday,” said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “I expect a Category 1 hurricane at landfall, but I cannot rule out a Category 2.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster for 30 Texas counties so emergency crews will be prepared to rescue stranded residents. In addition to the potential loss of life, flooding can close roads and knock out power to homes, businesses and refineries. There are about 30 plants along to the coast to Louisiana that collectively can process 7 million barrels of oil a day and flooding can shut units, spark fires and create supply disruptions.

“We think the primary impacts will be from widespread and potentially catastrophic flooding, with total rainfall amounts over the next week exceeding a foot in a large area from Corpus Christi to the Louisiana coast and then up to 100 miles inland from there,” said Todd Crawford, chief meteorologist at The Weather Company in Andover, Massachusetts. “Many locations in those areas may exceed two feet. Clearly Houston is at risk for historic rainfall amounts over the next week.”

The U.S. Weather Prediction Center is calling for more than 20 inches (51 centimeters) of rain from Corpus Christi to Houston in the next seven days.

The Gulf Coast from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Lake Charles, Louisiana, is home to nearly 30 refineries — making up about 7 million barrels a day of refining capacity, or one-third of the U.S. total. It’s in the path of heavy rainfall that was expected to start late Thursday. Flooding poses risks to operations and may cause power failures.

“Biggest impact of this storm will be a significant reduction of crude oil imports into the Texas Gulf Coast, resulting in refineries cutting crude rates,” Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston, said by email. “There will also be a significant impact on petroleum product exports impacting supplies into Mexico.”

Houston wholesale conventional gasoline rose 1.9 percent to $1.5926 a gallon Wednesday, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

While oil supplies could be disrupted, natural gas demand could fall, said Matt Rogers, president of the Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland. When hurricane Ike hit Texas in 2008, power outages cut electricity demand, reducing the need for gas and depressing prices.

Ike, a Category 2 storm when it struck near the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel, killed 103 people across the Caribbean and the U.S., including at least 21 in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. It caused about $29.5 billion in damage, according to a 2009 National Hurricane Center report.

Harvey is “strengthening faster than they thought, so it could make landfall as a Category 2 instead of a Category 1,” Rogers said.

Heavy Rains

Exxon Mobil Corp. said it’s cutting output at its Hoover production platform in the Gulf of Mexico ahead of the storm. The company’s also working on plans to evacuate staff in stages from offshore facilities that will be in the path of the storm, Suann Guthrie, a spokeswoman, said by email. Royal Dutch Shell Plc shut production at its Perdido platform and evacuated the facility.

Tug boats transport the Hess Corp. Stampede tension leg oil platform, towed from Kiewit Offshore Services Ltd., in Ingleside, Texas, U.S. Photographer: Eddie Seal/Bloomberg

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. said Tuesday it’s removing nonessential staff from some production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico in response to weather conditions. Cheniere Energy Inc. “activated” the severe weather team at its Sabine Pass LNG export terminal in Louisiana, Eben Burnham-Snyder, a spokesman, said by email. “At this time no production impacts expected.”

Along the coastline, seas could rise 5 to 7 feet (1.5 to 2.1 meters) above ground level. From 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38 centimeters) of rain will probably fall across parts of Texas into Louisiana, the hurricane center said. Some areas could get as much as 20 inches of rain.

“It is going to be a wet one,” Masters said. “It is not going to move fast after landfall and that is going to cause big trouble” from flooding rains.

Oncor, CenterPoint

The current track calls for the storm to land in southeastern Texas. Masters said at least one computer-forecast model shows the storm heading back into the Gulf of Mexico early next week before coming ashore in Texas again.

Texas power suppliers Oncor Electric Delivery Co. and CenterPoint Energy Inc. said they expect Harvey to make landfall Friday and are making preparations. American Electric Power Co. is making arrangements to bring in outside repair crews if they’re needed, Larry Jones, a spokesman, said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Cotton rallied on speculation the storm will threaten U.S. crops. On ICE Futures U.S. in New York, cotton for December delivery climbed 1.6 percent on Wednesday to settle at 68.89 cents a pound after earlier reaching the highest since Aug. 10. Prices were little changed at 9:49 a.m. New York time.

American Airlines Group Inc. is allowing people traveling through Houston and nine other cities on certain dates to rebook their flights without a fee because of the storm. United Continental Holdings Inc. is offering the same in eight cities, while Delta Air Lines Inc. is offering a similar waiver for Houston flights.

Policyholder-owned State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. has the largest share in the market for home coverage in Texas, followed by Allstate Corp., Farmers Insurance and United Services Automobile Association, according to data compiled by A.M. Best Co.

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Latest Comments

  • August 30, 2017 at 12:36 pm
    Agent says:
    SW, it appears the rains have stopped in Houston and the storm is finally moving on and the waters are receding. Louisiana is going to get a round of it, but it shouldn't be ... read more
  • August 29, 2017 at 11:15 am
    Agent says:
    Well, the Cajun Navy came over from neighboring Louisiana with their boats to help in the rescue efforts and what did they get, looters shooting at them. This kind of disaste... read more
  • August 28, 2017 at 10:46 am
    Agent says:
    SW, thanks. People are at their best when times are at their worst. Texans have a big heart and unaffected cities are rallying to the call and help the affected restore their... read more
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