MIAMI (BLOOMBERG) – Tropical Storm Sally sparked the evacuation of energy platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and will probably become a hurricane as it brings flooding rains along the coast from the Florida Panhandle to New Orleans.
Sally’s winds have reached 64kmh and the storm was about 55km south-east of Naples, Florida, heading towards the Gulf, the National Hurricane Centre said in an advisory on Saturday (Sept 12).
It is set to come ashore overnight Monday into Tuesday between Louisiana and Alabama as at least a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale. Some computer models have it coming in even stronger, and there’s the prospect of a dangerous storm surge.
“We’re going to have quite a storm on our hands,” said Jim Rouiller, lead meteorologist for the Energy Weather Group.
“It is going to slow down and that will give it time to intensify. We could have a Category 2 hurricane coming in somewhere near New Orleans.”
On its current track, the storm looks set to cause more than US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) of losses and damage, said Chuck Watson, a disaster modeller with Enki Research.
If it blows water from Lake Pontchartrain toward New Orleans, or the flooding gets worse, there is a chance the costs will rise.
“The people in New Orleans probably don’t even know what they are dealing with yet,” Rouiller said. “You don’t turn your back on any storm in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Sally will sweep the eastern edge of the offshore production area, probably halting oil and natural gas drilling for a short time and adding further disruption to the industry, Rouiller said. Hurricanes Marco and Laura, and Tropical Storm Cristobal all halted work across the Gulf so far this year.
Chevron said it is evacuating workers and shutting in production at its Blind Faith and Petronius platforms.
Flooding will be a major risk: the system could bring 25cm to 51cm of rain along the Gulf coast, said James Gebhardt, a meteorologist with Maxar.
“That is going to be the main issue with this system,” Gebhardt said.
“It is going to slow down. There will be heavy rains from Monday through early Thursday. It is a large rainmaker.”
Sally becomes 2020’s 18th named storm in the Atlantic, the earliest that tally has been reached in records going back to 1851, said Phil Klotzbach, lead author of Colorado State University’s seasonal hurricane forecast.
The previous record was set by Stan, which formed in October 2005. So far, seven storms have hit the US in 2020, including Laura, which devastated south-west Louisiana, and Hurricane Isaias, which temporarily knocked out power to millions in the Northeast.
In addition to Sally, Tropical Storm Paulette is also forecast to strengthen into a hurricane as it nears Bermuda late Sunday; a hurricane warning has been issued.
Another Atlantic storm, Rene, has weakened to a tropical depression. Systems are currently strengthening near and to the south-west of the Cabo Verde Islands.
A Global Asset Management Seoul Korea Magazine