August 15, 2007 / 3:31 PM / 10 years ago

Storm Erin heads for south Texas refining hub: NHC

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Erin, which formed in the western Gulf of Mexico early Wednesday, was moving in a northwesterly direction and expected to make landfall in the vicinity of the south Texas oil refining hub of Corpus Christi early Thursday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

At 5 p.m. EDT, the center of Erin was located about 195 miles east of Brownsville, Texas, and about 210 miles south of Galveston, Texas, according to the NHC.

The NHC extended the tropical storm warning for the Texas Coast northeastward to San Luis Pass.

A tropical storm warning means the NHC expects such a storm in that area within the next 24 hours.

Erin was moving northwest at near 13 miles per hour, with maximum sustained winds unchanged at near 40 mph, but some strengthening was possible before making landfall.

Energy companies were watching the storm because it could disrupt U.S. oil and natural gas production facilities and refining operations along the Texas coast.

But most said they expected only minimal impact from the storm, which was not expected to gain hurricane strength before making landfall.

The Corpus Christi area is home to three oil refineries that process over 800,000 barrels per day of oil and other feedstocks. The city is also an important oil import terminal.

According to the U.S. Minerals Management Service on Wednesday, no Gulf of Mexico oil production was shut in by the storm. MMS said only 5 million cubic feet of natural gas production was cut by operators out of total daily Gulf output of 7.7 billion cubic feet.

DEAN

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Dean was intensifying over the central Atlantic Ocean and was expected to become a hurricane later Wednesday or early Thursday.

In its 5 p.m. advisory, the NHC said Dean was located about 910 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, which extend south from the Virgin Islands to Trinidad and Tobago.

Dean was moving west-northwest at 22 mph with maximum sustained winds up slightly to 65 mph and was expected to cross the Lesser Antilles on Friday.

The NHC forecast Dean will strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane (winds 74-95 mph) over the next 24 hours, a Category 2 hurricane (winds 96-110 mph) in about two days and near Category 3 (winds 111-130 mph) in about four days.

Early computer models showed Dean on a track towards the Gulf of Mexico by midweek next week, but some models late this afternoon projected a more southerly path for the storm, making landfall in about five days in Central America between Honduras and Nicaragua.

The NHC will issue its next advisories on Erin and Dean at 11 p.m. EDT.

Additional reporting by Robert Campbell

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