Hurricane Harvey rapidly strengthened Friday morning as it headed toward Texas, threatening to become the worst weather system to hit the U.S. in 12 years with dangerous storms and heavy rain expected along the Gulf Coast.
The National Hurricane Center said Harvey had grown into a Category 2 hurricane early Friday, but forecast it would intensify to Category-3 by the time it hits the Texas coast in the evening or early Saturday.
“Harvey is expected to be a major hurricane at landfall, bringing life-threatening storm surge, rainfall and wind hazards to portions of the Texas coast,” the NHC said in an advisory.
“Devastating and life-threatening flooding is expected across the middle and upper Texas coast from heavy rainfall of 15 to 25 inches, with isolated amounts as high as 35 inches, from Friday through next Wednesday.”
As of Friday at 5 a.m. Eastern Time, Harvey was about 180 miles southeast of Corpus Christi, traveling toward the coast at nine miles an hour with winds as strong as 105 miles an hour, the hurricane center said. The NHC urged people in the affected areas to “take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other dangerous conditions.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has pre-emptively declared a state of disaster in 30 Texas counties—including heavily populated Harris County, which encompasses Houston—in anticipation of what could happen when Harvey hits the coast. Abbott also requested 700 National Guard members to be activated, while military helicopters were said to be on standby in Austin and San Antonio to help in potential rescue and emergency evacuations.
If Harvey strengthens to a Category-3 hurricane before reaching the coast, it’ll be the worst tropical depression to hit the U.S. since Wilma in October 2005. Hurricane Ike that hit Texas in September 2008 had calmed to Category-2 by the time it made landfall around Galveston.
The energy industry has been closely watching Harvey’s path and power as nearly half of the U.S. oil refining capacity is located on the Gulf Coast from Alabama to Texas. Refineries on the coastline expected to be struck by Friday’s hurricane—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.
Anadarko Petroleum Corp.
and Royal Dutch Shell PLC
are among the companies that have evacuated personnel from oil and natural-gas platforms and slowed production in the Gulf of Mexico.
West Texas Intermediate oil prices
settled lowed on Thursday, but moved up around 0.8% on Friday.
“This is clearly a near-term negative for WTI structure and a positive for refined product cracks, both of which have moved sharply today,” analysts at Citigroup said in a note.