Next Disaster: Irma versus gas shortages
[2017-09-01 11:22 GMT]
Irma was named as a tropical storm on Wednesday morning and by Thursday afternoon it had strengthened into a large Category 3 hurricane, with winds of 115 mph. Such explosive strengthening is known as "rapid intensification," defined by the National Hurricane Center as having its wind speed increase at least 30 knots (35 mph) in 24 hours.
Hurricane Harvey underwent rapid intensification last week, just before landfall, which brought it from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane when it moved onshore near Corpus Christi. TRACK THE STORM HERE
Hurricane Irma is forecast to continue to strengthen as it moves westward over the next five days and the official forecast from the National Hurricane Center puts a dangerous Category 4 Hurricane Irma on the doorstep of the Caribbean by the end of the five-day forecast on Tuesday afternoon.
Bottom line: Hurricane Irma is already a powerful hurricane and looks to only become more so. Those with interests in the Caribbean and southeast US coast should pay close attention to the forecast.
Why are we seeing gas shortages now?
Texas is the energy capital of the country, both in terms of crude oil production and refining that into different types of fuel such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other products. Several refineries shut down as a precaution before Harvey made landfall in southeast Texas coast on Friday night as a category 4 hurricane. In the following days, as the storm caused widespread flooding, more inland refineries stopped operations. As of late Wednesday, more than a fifth of the nation's refining capacity -- including two of the country's largest oil refineries -- was out of commission as oil companies battled flooding.
How long will this last?
There is still a great deal of uncertainty. Many refineries have not said when they expect refineries to be back up and running. But experts aren't panicking. There's little evidence of major damage at most Texas Gulf Coast refineries, which are well-equipped to deal with flooding, Hatfield said. However, they can't just flip a switch and immediately start producing gasoline and diesel.