After you read this blog, fill your gas tank. Seriously. Tropical Storm Harvey is gaining strength in the Western Gulf of Mexico. It will become a Hurricane today and perhaps a major Hurricane by tomorrow. Amazingly, the United States has not been hit by a major hurricane since Hurricane Wilma roared across South Florida on October 24, 2005. President Obama went his entire presidency* without dealing with a major hurricane strike (*Irene, Issac, Sandy, and Matthew were bad storms during 44’s tenure but Bush and Clinton dealt with many, many more). Whether you like the man or not, you have to be thinking of course President Trump would have to deal with a major hurricane in year one of the job. I’m fascinated (some may say terrified) to see how he deals with a natural disaster. That includes the potential energy crisis if Harvey shuts down the oil refineries in the Northern Gulf of Mexico and the damage Harvey will inflict in Southeast Texas.
As of 11 AM, the National Hurricane Center is forecasting Tropical Storm Harvey to become a major Category 3 Hurricane by landfall. Right now sustained winds are 65 MPH but the central pressure is 982 mb. This pressure has been falling all morning and the winds tend to lag behind this a tad.
Hurricane and Storm Surge Warnings are up across the mid Texas coast. A 115 MPH hurricane would drive a 6-10 foot storm surge to the coast while slow forward movement will drop 15-30″ of rain in Southeast Texas.
There sea surface temperatures are warm and the depth of the warm water support these forecasts for further intensification. It’s best for now that the storm will move northwest into Texas because there is a lot of very warm water along the Northern Gulf of Mexico.
Do you know what else lies in the Northern Gulf of Mexico?
Impacts to New England
Oil rigs. Now there are not as many rigs in 2017 as there were in 2005 when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused the price of a barrel of crude oil to rise from $57 to $69 (source). Only 23 rigs are currently online in the Gulf of Mexico.
The oil industry recovered quickly after those Hurricanes and new standards are in place for the rigs. Now they haven’t been tested so there is an unknown in how these new rigs will stand up to a potential major hurricane. Of greater concern is for storm surge or rain flooding for the 30 major oil refinery’s that lie between Houston and Corpus Christi, TX. The energy industry swears they are ready so we will see. It seems inevitable that there will be short term increase in the price of fuel. Harvey will not move much over the weekend, but he will perhaps emerge into the Gulf of Mexico again early next week. If the storm hits the way it looks like it will, this will further delay recovery for residents and the energy industry.
New England could use some moisture from this system. Here is the latest drought monitor released this morning.
Dryness continues to expand in Eastern New England. The lawns and practice fields are browning and getting dusty. Despite the short term relief we received this winter/spring from precipitation the multi-year deficit continues to grow. Some computer guidance does take this system through the Ohio Valley and into the Northeast at the end of next week. I’ll be here to track it.
Now fill your tank!