Caribbean Storm Threatens to Roil Gulf, Hit Texas or Louisiana

A budding storm in the Caribbean is threatening to become a powerful tropical system that will wreck havoc in the Gulf of Mexico and potentially slam into the coast of Louisiana or Texas this weekend.

The showers and thunderstorms currently swirling south of Jamaica have a 90% chance of forming into a tropical depression – the weakest in the class of storms that also includes hurricanes, the National Hurricane Center said Thursday. It’s possible the system could turn into a hurricane shortly after that, which would then threaten offshore oil and natural gas operations, said Ryan Truchelut, president of Weather Tiger LLC. 

“The upshot I think there is a pretty decent chance of a hurricane landfall in Louisiana or eastern Texas,” Truchelut said Thursday in an interview. “Sunday is the anniversary of Katrina; it seems like a particularly cruel date for a hurricane landfall in Louisiana.”

A storm ripping through the offshore oil and natural gas platforms, then hitting the Gulf of Mexico coast, could disrupt production and processing. The Gulf is home to 16% of U.S. crude production, 2% of its gas output, and 48% of the nation’s refining capacity. Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi on Aug. 29, 2005 as a major hurricane, and the storm went on to cause massive flooding in New Orleans that devastated the city and killed at least 1,800 people.

Truchelut said once the storm forms there will be little to hold it back. Hurricanes thrive on warm water and many places in the Gulf under its projected track have sea-surface temperatures from the high 80s Fahrenheit. Also the storm could sweep over what is called the Loop Current, which is among the warmest and deepest water in the area.

“All the way to the coastline it has a lot of high-octane fuel,” Truchelut said.

The National Hurricane Center will begin issuing advisories for the storm at 11 a.m. New York time. The center is also tracking two other potential storms: one east of Bermuda has 60% chance of becoming a storm in the next two days, while one between Africa and the Caribbean has a 40% chance. The next name on the hurricane list is Ida.

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