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U.S. energy sector braces for hurricane season

Last year's Atlantic hurricane season left consumers in Florida without gasoline and much of Puerto Rico in the dark.

By Daniel J. Graeber
U.S. energy sector braces for hurricane season
Cars queue up to get gas at one of few stations that were still open in Naples, Fla., following Hurricane Irma on September 12, 2017. National forecasters say this year's hurricane season could be above average. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

May 25 (UPI) -- While offshore segments were spared, the U.S. energy sector could be in for a rough year with forecasters expecting an above-normal hurricane season.

Climate forecasters at the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, a division of the Commerce Department, predict a 40 percent chance of an average 2018 hurricane season and a 35 percent chance of an above-normal season. There's a 70 percent chance that as many as four hurricanes of category 3 or stronger will come from this year's Atlantic hurricane season.

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An average hurricane season produces one to three major hurricanes, characterized by winds stronger than 111 miles per hour.

"It only takes one storm to devastate a community so now is the time to prepare," Daniel Kaniewski, the acting deputy administration at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in a statement.

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Hurricane Harvey hit the southern coast of Texas and the largest density of refineries on the southern Gulf Coast in late August. Port infrastructure in Corpus Christi, the fourth largest U.S. sea port by tonnage and the nation's largest crude oil export terminal, was damaged severely by Harvey and later by Hurricane Nate last year.

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A report from Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, found that flooding from Harvey was the greatest threat to energy infrastructure in the region. As much as five feet of rain were forecast for some of the areas in the storm's path. Harvey also pounded much of the shale oil and gas basins in Texas.

A fourth quarter survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said it was assumed that Harvey caused $70 billion in direct damage and left around 22,000 people without a job.

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Consumers, meanwhile, saw an increase in the retail price of gasoline. Florida was among the hardest hit when Hurricane Irma struck in August because it doesn't have any refineries of its own. Hurricane Maria left 1.5 million homes and businesses without power in Puerto Rico.

For the offshore industry, Tim Charters, the political affairs director for the National Ocean Industries Association, said there were no spills and no reported injuries or death to offshore workers.

"This is a testament to how well the offshore industry prepares for and responds to hurricanes," he said in a statement.

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