Tropical Storm Don, the fourth named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, developed at 21:00 UTC on July 27 and is currently located in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 190 miles (305 kilometers) southeast of Corpus Christi in Texas, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Don packs sustained winds of around 50 mph (85 kmph). The storm is traveling in a west-northwest direction at 14 mph (22 kmph) and this general motion is expected to continue until Texas landfall late today or early Saturday. The NHC said tropical storm-force winds extend 105 miles (165 kilometers) from its center.
A tropical storm warning has been issued for the Texas coast from the mouth of Rio Grande to San Luis Pass. The NHC anticipates a very slight strengthening in the storm before the center reaches the coast, with gradual weakening thereafter. The latest NHC forecast suggests Don will make landfall between Corpus Christi and Brownsville with sustained winds of around 60 mph (100kpmh). Tropical storm conditions are expected to begin hitting the coast Friday evening with landfall following late Friday or early Saturday. Forecasters expect total rain accumulations of 3 to 5 inches from south Texas to north-eastern Mexico, with the potential of 7 inches in isolated areas. Water levels are expected to rise as much as 1 to 2 feet above ground level mainly along the immediate coast where the center of the storm makes landfall. Once ashore, forecasters predict Don will move fairly quickly, mitigating the threat of flooding. The NHC forecasts Don to continue tracking west-northwest post landfall over extreme southeast Texas and into northern Mexico on Saturday.
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Don is the biggest threat to the Gulf of Mexico energy infrastructure in the 2011 Gulf storm season thus far. Energy operations in the Gulf, including Shell Oil and Apache Corp, continue to take precautions by evacuating support personnel from facilities in the storm’s path. However, analysts do not anticipate prolonged production outages or infrastructure damage due to the storm’s relative weakness and position in the Gulf of Mexico. Some production facilities in the southwest have been disrupted, but only 6.8 percent of oil production and 2.8 percent of gas output in the Gulf has been shut, according to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.
Danielle Hale, Emergency Management Director in Corpus Christi does not anticipate any evacuation orders in the area of landfall. “The worst we expect is maybe some beach access roads may have to be closed heading into Friday evening”, says Hale. According to Hale, with 90 percent of Texas in extreme to exceptional drought, the rain Don is expected to bring will be welcome. Experts say the past 6-month period ending in June of this year was the driest on record, with parts of Texas 15 inches short of their average rainfall.
Guy Carpenter will closely monitor Don’s progress and update this report accordingly.
Sources: National Hurricane Center, WSI, Associated Press, Reuters News, Agence France Presse
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