Tropical storm in Gulf stirs wind, flood concerns
BP Plc, ConocoPhillips and Apache Corp. joined other oil companies in evacuating workers from their Gulf of Mexico energy ...
MIAMI — Tropical Storm Debby formed in the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday, interfering with oil and gas production and putting officials on alert for flooding and strong winds from Texas to Florida.
It was the first time four tropical storms have been recorded before July 1 during the Atlantic hurricane season since record keeping began in 1851.
Debby forced the suspension of 8 percent of the region's oil and gas production.
At least one tornado linked to the storm touched down in southwest Florida, but no injuries were reported. The storm's outer rain bands were pounding parts of the state.
Debby was about 220 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph.
While the storm's track is far from certain, the National Hurricane Center has Debby skirting the Louisiana coast and heading west toward Texas. Some strengthening is expected over the next couple of days.
Forecasters warned of up to 6 inches of rain along the coast, with isolated amounts of 10 inches.
The government reported that nine offshore production platforms and one drilling rig were evacuated. The suspended crude-oil production amounts to about 2 percent of U.S. production and about 0.1 percent of global production. No impact on oil prices is expected unless the storm strengthens and forces more production platforms to close.
A tropical-storm warning was issued for part of the southeast Louisiana coast. Officials there have been monitoring the weather closely for the last several days. Some low-lying areas close to the coast flood easily in rough weather.
"We've already seen higher tides than usual," said Angela Rains, manager of the Terrebonne Levee District.
Near the mouth of the Mississippi southeast of New Orleans, Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said officials were making preparations to protect the main highway from tidal flooding.
A tornado touched down in Collier County in southwest Florida and forecasters warned other twisters were possible.
Out in the Gulf, Anadarko Petroleum removed all nonessential personnel and expected to close four facilities in the central and eastern Gulf by Saturday. Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and Marathon Oil said nonessential personnel were being removed but production was not being affected. ExxonMobil reported its operations were unaffected.
Alberto was the first storm this year. It formed off the South Carolina coast on May 19, almost two weeks before the hurricane season officially began June 1.