A tropical storm, Harvey, was heading toward the Texas Gulf Coast Thursday morning, threatening to make landfall on Friday and shut down a third of U.S. oil refineries.
The National Hurricane Center said Thursday morning the storm is likely to strengthen as it makes its way through the Gulf of Mexico and likely to become a hurricane by Friday. If Harvey gets upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, it will be the first to hit the state since Hurricane Ike in 2008.
At 7 a.m. Central Time, the NHC said the storm was located about 380 miles southeast of Port O’Connor, traveling at 10 miles an hour with wind gusts up to 60 miles an hour.
“A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area. A warning is typically issued 36 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” the center said.
The tropical storm was also expected to drop as much as 25 inches of rain in some areas on the Texas coast.
“Rainfall from Harvey may cause life-threatening flooding,” the NHC said.
The energy industry was closely watching the potential hurricane as nearly half of the U.S. oil refining capacity is located on the Gulf Coast from Alabama to Texas. Refineries on the coastline in Harvey’s path — from Corpus Christi in Texas to Lake Charles in Louisiana — account for about a third of total U.S. refining capacity, according to media reports.
Royal Dutch Shell PLC
, Anadarko Petroleum Corp.
and Exxon Mobil Corp.
said already on Wednesday they were evacuating workers and reducing oil and gas production in the affected areas, according to Reuters.