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Storm Beryl shifts toward Houston, may gain hurricane strength

REUTERS/RICH MATTHEWS
                                Chris Murphy, 71, fills up gas cans in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Beryl in Texas City, Texas.
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REUTERS/RICH MATTHEWS

Chris Murphy, 71, fills up gas cans in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Beryl in Texas City, Texas.

Tropical Storm Beryl could grow into a Category 2 hurricane when it makes landfall in the Houston area early on Monday as it regains strength moving northwest over the Gulf of Mexico, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

The storm was expected to strengthen back into a Category 1 hurricane on Sunday as it travels over warm waters and shifts north-northwest in the afternoon. The NHC issued hurricane warnings across much of the Texas coast.

The storm has prompted closures or vessel traffic restrictions at multiple ports in cities from Houston to Corpus Christi, which is the top crude oil export hub in the U.S. The closures could disrupt crude oil exports, shipments of crude to refineries, and motor fuel from these plants.

Temperatures in the region are forecast at above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) in the coming days, including heat indices as high as 108 on Sunday. Parts of eastern Texas were on flood watch ahead of the storm, which had maximum wind speeds of 60 mph (96 kph) as of Sunday morning.

Earlier this week the storm, which at one point intensified to a Category 5 hurricane, left a deadly trail of destruction across the Caribbean. It swept through Jamaica, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in addition to unleashing heavy rainfall on northern Venezuela.

It has claimed at least 11 lives, tearing apart buildings while felling power lines and trees.

Beryl last made landfall on Friday, crossing Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and causing power outages in some areas. However, it largely spared the top beach destinations there and caused no casualties. Video showed the international airport at Cancun packed with tourists on Saturday as they rescheduled their flights home after the storm.

With the storm now approaching Texas, the National Weather Service warned of storm surges causing coastal flooding and rip currents.

OIL REFINERIES

Most of the northern Gulf’s offshore oil and gas production is east of Beryl’s forecast track.

Some oil producers, including Shell and Chevron, had evacuated personnel from their Gulf of Mexico offshore production platforms ahead of the storm. Citgo Petroleum Corp has said it plans to keep the Corpus Christi refinery running at minimum production as the storm moves up the coast. Gibson Energy, which operates a large oil terminal in Corpus Christi, said operations were continuing, but it would take further steps depending on the forecast.

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