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Hurricanes Expected
The News - Natural Disasters
August 17, 2009
Tropical Storm Claudette churned toward the Florida coast well clear of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico oil patch on Sunday while two other cyclones, Ana and Bill, raced through the Atlantic Ocean toward the Caribbean islands.

The six-month Atlantic hurricane season got off to a slow start with no storms in the first 2-1/2 months but exploded this weekend as three formed in just over a day.

Claudette, the third storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, spun up with surprising speed overnight in an area well east of the heaviest concentration of U.S. energy platforms, which stretch along the coast from Mobile Bay to Brownsville, Texas.

It was expected to hit land late on Sunday in the Florida panhandle but did not appear to be a threat to U.S. oil and gas production in the Gulf, which is home to almost half of U.S. refinery capacity, a quarter of oil production and 15 percent of natural gas output.

Oil companies were monitoring the storm but had not shut down production.

"Gulf operations are normal," BP Plc spokesman Daron Beaudo said in a statement. "Nothing to report."

Claudette's winds strengthened to 50 miles per hour (80 kilometres per hour) and its center was located about 120 miles southeast of Pensacola, Florida, at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Forecasters said it could dump up to 6 inches of rain along the coast and push a 3 to 5 foot (1 to 1.5 meter) storm surge ashore.

THREAT FROM BILL

The threat to the small islands of the eastern Caribbean eased on Sunday as Tropical Storm Ana faded to a tropical depression and could be downgraded further in the near future.

A storm watch, alerting residents to expect bad weather within 36 hours, remained in effect from Puerto Rico, home to about 4 million people, to Dominica. The government of the Dominican Republic also put parts of the coast on alert.

Ana was about 170 miles east of Dominica and its top winds had dropped to about 35 mph, the Miami-based hurricane center said.

The bigger threat could come from Bill, which forecasters expected to whip up into a "major" Category 3 hurricane, with winds of more than 110 mph, by Friday. Hurricanes of Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson intensity scale are the most destructive type.

Some computer models suggested Bill could reach Category 4, with winds of more than 130 mph.

Bill's sustained winds increased to 65 mph on Sunday but it was still 1,440 miles east of the Lesser Antilles islands. It was headed to the west-northwest at about 16 mph, the hurricane center said.

Full Article : Reuters.com

 
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