CHICAGO: Millions of people in the US Gulf Coast states of Texas and Louisiana braced for the arrival of Hurricane Harvey as it intensified to category two with winds whipping up to 100 miles (160 kilometers) an hour.
The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned that Harvey was “rapidly intensifying” and creating a potential for “life-threatening and devastating” floods as it roared toward an area that processes some seven million barrels of oil a day.
The storm’s center was due to make landfall sometime early Saturday, with preceding strong winds arriving as early as 8:00 am (1300 GMT) Friday.
Harvey was bearing northwest at 10 miles (16 kilometers) per hour as of midnight central time (0500 GMT), but the NHC said the category one hurricane could hit land as a much more powerful category three, with winds of 130 miles (209 kilometers) per hour.If forecasts hold, Harvey would be the strongest hurricane to hit the US mainland in 12 years.
“For anyone who has not already evacuated, please hurry to do so,” the city of Portland, Texas declared on its website in capital letters.
The storm was menacing one-third of the US refining capacity, forcing several energy companies to take precautions and evacuate personnel from oil and gas platforms in the heart of the US “Refinery Row.”
One oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico was evacuated Thursday, as well as 39 manned oil and natural gas production platforms, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
Those evacuations represented an estimated 9.5 percent of oil production and 14.7 percent of natural gas production in the Gulf, the Bureau said.
The storm was expected to dump as much as 35 inches (89 centimeters) of rain in some parts of Texas. Dangerous storm surges were also forecast to reach between six and 12 feet (1.8 and 3.7 meters) above ground level in the worst-hit regions.