November 8, 2009 / 12:28 AM / 10 years ago

Hurricane Ida aims for Gulf of Mexico oil fields

CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters) - Hurricane Ida roared toward the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, where important oil fields are located, after killing 91 people and leaving at least another 60 missing in floods and mudslides in El Salvador.

A Salvadoran looks at a car damaged by heavy rains in San Salvador November 8, 2009. REUTERS/William Bonilla

Ida swept past the Mexican resort of Cancun and aimed for the Gulf of Mexico but is expected to weaken gradually as it heads toward some of the oil and gas production facilities in the central Gulf, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The storm reached hurricane force again late on Saturday and strengthened to a Category 2 storm on Sunday with sustained winds of near 100 mph, the Miami-based hurricane center said in its 4 p.m. EST (2100 GMT) advisory.

Some energy companies in the Gulf of Mexico were evacuating workers from offshore platforms, but so far oil and gas output had not been affected.

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the only terminal in the United States capable of handling the largest tankers, said it would stop unloading ships due to stormy seas.

A quarter of U.S. oil and 15 percent of its natural gas are produced from fields in the Gulf and the coast is home to 40 percent of the nation’s refining capacity.

The hurricane center set a hurricane watch from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to Mexico Beach in northwestern Florida, but did not include the city of New Orleans. A hurricane watch means hurricane conditions are expected in the area within 36 hours.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency on Sunday, allowing the government to mobilize troops and rescue workers.

If Ida makes landfall in Louisiana it would be the first storm to strike the state since Hurricane Gustav came ashore in September 2008.


In El Salvador, rivers burst their banks and hillsides collapsed under relentless rains triggered by Ida’s passage, cutting off parts of the mountainous interior from the rest of the country.

El Salvador’s government said 91 people were killed and at least 60 were missing as a result of deadly mudslides and floods.

As of 4 p.m. EST (1800 GMT), Ida was 95 miles west-northwest of the western tip of Cuba, the hurricane center said. It was moving north-northwest near 10 mph and was forecast to turn toward the north over the next two days.

In Mexico, the government urged people to avoid unnecessary travel in the Yucatan Peninsula and imposed restrictions on coastal shipping.

About 1,000 people were evacuated from Holbox island northwest of Cancun, an isolated fishing community and sanctuary for thousands of flamingos and other exotic birds.

Slideshow (3 Images)

In Cancun the airport remained open but there were no plans to evacuate approximately 12,000 people visiting the resort, which is popular with American tourists.

Ida first became a hurricane on Thursday off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, where heavy rains forced more than 5,000 people into shelters.

The country’s coffee crop was not directly affected by the storm, according to the local coffee council.

Additional reporting by Jose Cortazar in Cancun, Nelson Renteria in San Salvador, Ivan Castro in Managua and Erwin Seba in Houston; Writing by Robert Campbell; Editing by Eric Beech

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