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Hurricane Laura makes a catastrophic landfall in Louisiana very near Texas

NOAA

Hurricane Laura makes landfall on Aug. 27.

- Damage could leave areas uninhabitable for weeks or months
- Laura may cause $15 billion in insured losses, BI says

By Bloomberg News

HOUSTON/NEW ORLEANS
Petroleumworld 08 27 20 2020

Hurricane Laura made landfall early Thursday in Louisiana as one of the most powerful storms to ever strike the state, threatening the region with “catastrophic storm surge,” flash floods and devastating winds that could inflict more than $15 billion in insured losses .

The storm came ashore near Cameron, Louisiana, with maximum winds of 150 miles (241 kilometers) per hour, the National Hurricane Center said at 2 a.m. New York time, matching a record in 1856.

Laura extends an extremely active Atlantic hurricane season that still has three months to go. It will be the seventh system to hit the U.S., a record for this time of year, and the first major hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast since Michael in 2018.

Laura has prompted mandatory evacuations in coastal areas and is targeting the heart of America's energy industry, shutting more than 80% of Gulf oil production and a third of the region's refining capacity. It's also coming with more power than Hurricane Harvey had when it made landfall in Texas in 2017.

For anyone living in an area that floods or is in the direct path of Laura's landfall, “there is no calculation to be made: Get out,” said Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research. “Whatever fears you might have about Covid are secondary -- even those with health issues that might make riding out a weaker storm an option.”

Late Wednesday night in Louisiana, a major highway evacuation route west to Texas had been closed because of high winds. Meanwhile, authorities in one coastal community urged residents who refused to comply with evacuation orders to keep personal identification information and family contacts in plastic bags in their pockets.

The power grid operator for the U.S. Midwest is already bracing itself. The system manager Midcontinent Independent System Operator has issued a severe weather alert through Thursday and said it has back-up operations ready. Meanwhile, New Orleans-based utility giant Entergy Corp. has requested mutual assistance, and said it has tens of thousands of workers from 20 states preparing to assist in restoring power following the storm.

The storm could cause as much as $25 billion in damage and economic losses, Watson said. The destruction to refineries could cost $5 billion alone.

Key Developments:

‘Extremely Dangerous' Laura Hits Louisiana: NHC (2 a.m. NY)

Hurricane Laura brings a “catastrophic storm surge, extreme winds and flash flooding” to Louisiana, the NHC said in an advisory. On the current forecast track, it will move across the state on Thursday, weakening as it goes, and arrive in Arkansas by nightfall.

 

Hurricane Laura is ‘Closing In On Landfall': NWS (1:10 a.m. NY)

Lake Charles radar is showing Hurricane Laura “closing in on landfall,” the National Weather Service in New Orleans said in a tweet at 1:10 a.m. New York time.

A Weatherflow site in Cameron recently reported peak wind gust at 115 miles per hour.

Laura's Eyewall Moving Onshore in Louisiana: NHC (1 a.m. NY)

The eyewall of Hurricane Laura is moving onshore over Cameron Parish in Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center said. A Weatherflow site in Cameron recently reported a gust of wind at 110 miles per hour. The storm was about 40 miles south of Lake Charles, Louisiana, with maximum sustained winds still at 150 miles per hour, the NHC said at 1 a.m. New York time.

Hurricane Laura Not Expected to Intensify: NHC (11:24 p.m. NY)

While it remains “extremely dangerous,” Hurricane Laura is no longer expected to intensify from its current Category 4 strength because it has so little time remaining over water, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm, with maximum sustained winds now expected to stay about about 150 miles per hour, was about 75 miles south of Lake Charles, Louisiana, as of 11 p.m. New York time.

The storm surge may now penetrate as much as 40 miles inland, and flood waters won't recede for several days after the storm, the NHC said. Catastrophic wind damage is expected where Laura's eyewall moves on shore.

Major Storm Evacuation Route Closed by High Winds in Louisiana (11:01 p.m. NY)

Interstate 10, a primary evacuation route for Louisiana residents fleeing Hurricane Laura, has been closed, according to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.

Westbound traffic has been halted west of Atchafalaya Basin, while eastbound flows into the state have been stopped at the Texas border, it said in a tweet .

The closure will force evacuees to seek alternate routes, including highways to the north, or abandon plans to escape the storm just hours before it is expected to make landfall.

Hurricane Laura ‘As Bad As It Gets,' Says Former FEMA Chief (10:28 p.m. NY)

Hurricane Laura is “about as bad as it gets,” Craig Fugate, a previous administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said.

Fugate, who headed the agency under President Barack Obama, said the storm surge from the hurricane would affect a very vulnerable area, with power outages and destruction from winds expected.

“We keep setting records each year with these extreme weather events,” Fugate said during an interview Wednesday evening on Bloomberg Television.

U.S. EPA Preps for Fuel-Standard Waivers If Shortages Emerge (9:45 p.m. NY)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is preparing for emergency waiver requests from fuel standards to deal with possible gasoline shortages after Hurricane Laura comes ashore.

The waivers have been used in the past to help get supplies to storm-ravaged areas and blunt shortages after pipeline failures. A team is ready to expedite requests, the EPA said.

If EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler determines “extreme and unusual fuel supply circumstances exist in a state or region as a result of the hurricane, a temporary waiver can help ensure an adequate supply of gasoline is available in the affected area, particularly for emergency vehicles,” the agency said in news release.

Louisiana Sheriff Warns Hold-Outs to Keep Personal Info in Plastic Bag (9:37 p.m. NY)

Authorities in Louisiana's Vermilion Parish, which lies on the Louisiana coast, made a grim request to residents who have refused to follow mandatory evacuation orders: “Write your name, address, social security number and next of kin and put it a Ziplock bag in your pocket,” the sheriff's office said in a Facebook post .

“Those choosing to stay and face this very dangerous storm must understand that rescue efforts cannot and will not begin until after storm and surge has passed and it is safe to do so,” the sheriff's office said.

EPA Expands Superfund Sites Monitored for Contamination in Texas & Louisiana (9:21 p.m. NY)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has raised the number of Superfund sites it's assessing, increasing it to 48 in Texas and 27 in Louisiana, including former petrochemical facilities such as Brio Refining Inc. and Dixie Oil Processors Inc. in Harris County, Texas. One major concern is that violent winds and a storm surge could inundate former industrial facilities, dislodging contaminated soil and spreading toxic deposits throughout the nearby communities.

Heavy Rains Begin to Spread Onshore Louisiana Coast: NHC (7 p.m. NY)

Sustained tropical-storm-force winds and steady, heavy rainfall was beginning to spread onshore the central Louisiana coast, the National Hurricane Center said. Laura was about 130 miles (210 kilometers) south of Lake Charles, Louisiana, at 7 p.m. New York time, the NHC said. .

Pete Gaynor, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is warning of “unsurvivable surge” from the storm.

“If you are under evacuation orders, take action, get yourself out,” Gaynor told Fox News Wednesday. “Don't put yourself and your family at risk.”

Heart of America's Petrochemical Boom Braces for ‘Night of Hell' (6:06 p.m. NY)

America's fast-growing petrochemical and refining network on the Gulf Coast is about to get its biggest test as it braces for a direct hit from Hurricane Laura.

While Houston will likely escape the worst of the hurricane's impact, parts of Texas and Louisiana that have seen massive investment in recent years from the energy industry won't be so lucky.

The stretch of coastline that will feel Laura's impact accounts for about a quarter of U.S. oil refining capacity and half of North America's production of ethylene, a key plastic raw material, according to Independent Commodity Intelligence Services, not to mention newly built liquefied natural gas export terminals. The rapid growth of petrochemical facilities over the past decade, fueled by the U.S. shale boom, has raised the potential for fatalities, as well as vast financial and environmental damage.

— With assistance by Christine Buurma, Brian K Sullivan, Sheela Tobben, Jeffrey Bair, Lucia Kassai, Brian Eckhouse, Paul Stinson, Gregory Calderone, Isis Almeida, Michael Bellusci, Glen Carey, Naureen S Malik, Jennifer A Dlouhy, Kevin Crowley, Ari Natter, Joe Carroll, Rachel Adams-Heard, and Aaron Clark

By Bloomberg News

bloomberg.com
08 27 2020

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