By Sheela Tobben
(Bloomberg) — Barry weakened to a tropical depression but was set to cause more life-threatening floods through Monday on its march northward. Dangerous flash floods were likely across parts of central Louisiana into far southwest Mississippi on Monday morning.
The storm was 80 miles west-southwest of Little Rock, Arkansas, with sustained winds of 25 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said in a bulletin at 5 a.m. EDT.
Although little change in the strength of the storm was forecast in the next 48 hours, flash flood warnings were in place for parts of southeast Texas through much of Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas, as well as parts of the mid-Mississippi Valley.
A couple of tornadoes were possible on Monday from the Mid-South toward the Lower Ohio Valley, according to the bulletin. The storm was expected to continue moving north at about nine miles per hour during Monday, before turning northeast by Tuesday. A heavy band of rain was affecting areas of central Louisiana into far southwest Mississippi, with as much as 10 inches of rain expected through the morning hours.
With the storm now firmly ashore, some producers in the Gulf of Mexico are preparing, or have begun, to re-staff their offshore crude and natural gas platforms. Exxon Mobil Corp. said it was returning workers to its three platforms where non-essential staff were evacuated, with “minimal production impact.” BHP Group expects to return workers to its two shut assets by Monday, while Enbridge Inc. plans to return crew to an offshore natural gas platform. Their offshore and onshore facilities would have to be inspected before they can restart.
Chevron Corp. said it already began restarting six crude oil platforms that it shut. The U.S. Gulf of Mexico accounts for 16% of total U.S. crude oil production and less than 3% of natural gas production, according to the Energy Department. Royal Dutch Shell Plc said it was still monitoring the situation and its assets in Auger, Salsa and Enchilada remain shut-in with production in the Mars Corridor curtailed, according to a statement Sunday on its website.
Barry caused nearly 73% of crude oil production in the gulf to shut — from 70% the day before, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said in an update. About 62% of natural gas production was also halted.
Muted agriculture impact
As for agricultural products such as sugar, the storm’s effect was limited as earlier forecasts of very heavy rainfall did not materialize, said Herman Waguespack, research director of American Sugar Cane League in Louisiana.
“In the sugar industry, we didn’t get the rain that was forecast.” he said.“This storm is not going to be a major event for us.”
U.S. Coast Guard has re-opened the Port of New Orleans in Louisiana to marine traffic but with some restrictions. Barry, which was briefly a Category 1 hurricane as it hit the Louisiana coast, had caused the Lower Mississippi River in New Orleans to shut Friday.
Port of Fourchon, also in Louisiana, said it was assessing damage and clearing debris and power lines. Some roadways are now clear. This port serves more than 90% of the region’s deepwater oil production and acts as a land base for Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP). It had declared mandatory evacuations on Friday.
Louisiana’s oil refineries, which account for about 18% of total U.S. operable refining capacity, were largely spared.
Phillips 66 said its Alliance refinery was being prepared for restart Monday, after shutting it Friday. PBF Energy Inc.’s Chalmette refinery reduced production rates slightly because Barry halted new deliveries of crude, according to people familiar with operations. Exxon Mobil said its refinery and chemical plant in Baton Rouge and a storage terminal in Sorrento, LA, respectively were operating normally.
Entergy Louisiana LLC, the main provider in the state with a total of 1.08 million customers, reported that 25,000 remained affected. About 23,000 out of Cleco Corp.’s nearly 285,000 customers were without power.
The storm will cause about $800 million to $900 million in damage, Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia, said on Friday.
Additional reporting from Ann Koh, Serene Cheong, Bill Lehane and Fred Pals.