Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hurricane Watch: Houston we may have a problem

From the Houston Chronicle's SciGuy:
Hurricane Ike remains a 100-mph hurricane this morning, and thus far has avoided rapid intensification despite falling central pressures last night. As it has now crossed the most explosive Gulf of Mexico waters, the chance of a major hurricane at landfall has fallen modestly.
The official track remains centered upon Freeport, Texas, which does not bode well for a storm surge on Galveston Island and other locations immediately to the east....MORE
From Jeff Masters' Wunderblog:
Hurricane Ike's winds remain at Category 2 strength, but Ike is a freak storm with extreme destructive storm surge potential. Ike's pressure fell rapidly last night to 944 mb, but the hurricane did not respond to the pressure change by increasing its maximum winds in the eyewall. Instead, Ike responded by increasing the velocity of its winds away from the eyewall, over a huge stretch of the Gulf of Mexico. Another very unusual feature of Ike is the fact that the surface winds are much slower than the winds being measured aloft by the Hurricane Hunters. Winds at the surface may only be at Category 1 strength, even though Ike has a central pressure characteristic of a Category 3 or 4 storm. This very unusual structure makes forecasting the future intensity of Ike nearly impossible. The possibilities range from a Category 1 storm at landfall--as predicted by the HWRF model--to a Category 4 storm at landfall, as predicted by the GFDL.

Ike is now larger than Katrina was, both in its radius of tropical storm force winds--275 miles--and in it radius of hurricane force winds--115 miles. For comparison, Katrina's tropical storm and hurricane force winds extended out 230 and 105 miles, respectively. Ike's huge wind field has put an extraordinarily large volume of ocean water in motion. When this swirling column of water hits the shallow waters of the Continental Shelf, it will be be forced up into a large storm surge which will probably rival the massive storm surge of Hurricane Carla of 1961. Carla was a Category 4 hurricane with 145 mph winds at landfall, and drove a 10 foot or higher storm surge to a 180-mile stretch of Texas coast. A maximum storm surge of 22 feet was recorded at Port Lavaca, Texas. Despite the fact that the center of Carla hit over 120 miles southwest of Houston, the hurricane drove a 15-foot storm surge into the bays along the south side of the city...MORE
From Environmental Capital:
Hurricane Ike: Oil Keeps Falling, But Gasoline Jumps

As Hurricane Ike barrels through the Gulf of Mexico, crude oil prices are still falling, closing in on the $100 mark—a big difference with the market’s jittery reaction to the arrival of Hurricane Gustav.
Why is that? Ike’s current projected path would take it to the Texas gulf coast by Friday—smack in the heart of the country’s refining patch. That’s why crude is falling even as wholesale gasoline prices are “going ballistic.”

Texas is home to a lot more refinery capacity than Louisiana—about 25% of the U.S. total—and yet Hurricane Katrina rattled refiners enough to cause gasoline prices to spike when it pounded New Orleans. Ike could do a lot worse, depending on where it hits and with what strength.

Just the threat of a hurricane’s landfall can crimp output at big refiners, which can require upwards of 48 hours to close up shop. And with a big chunk of U.S. refinery capacity potentially out of commission for the time being, there’s going to be a lot of excess crude oil sitting around, which puts downward pressure on crude prices....MORE

Oil was recently at $100.66 down $1.92