HOUSTON (Reuters) – Texas on Monday edged toward recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey as shipping channels, oil pipelines and refineries restarted some operations and authorities lifted an evacuation order for the area around a once-burning chemical plant.
Port operations across the U.S. Gulf Coast oil and gas hub were resuming, although many still had restrictions on vessel draft, according to U.S. Coast Guard updates.
U.S. gasoline prices fell in expectation that the area can get back on its feet after Harvey cut a path of destruction across more than 300 miles (480 km). The storm’s record rains and flooding killed as many as 60 people, according to local officials, and displaced more than 1 million. Benchmark U.S. gasoline futures fell by more than 3 percent on Monday.
The Coast Guard allowed some barge traffic to enter Port Arthur, Texas, home of the country’s largest oil refinery, and is considering allowing ships to enter on Tuesday, a spokesman said.
Flooding from Harvey caused fires at the Arkema SA chemical plant in Crosby, some 25 miles (40 km) northeast of Houston.
But on Monday, the company said the Crosby Fire Department had lifted a 1.5-mile (2.4-km) evacuation zone around the plant, allowing people to return to their homes.
The lifting of the order may help residents like Paul Mincey, a 31-year-old tugboat engineer who has been kept out of the ranch home he shares with his girlfriend, return to normal.
“It could be full of snakes for all we know. We have no idea what’s in there,” Mincey said from aboard a tugboat in the Houston Ship Channel, which he said was polluted by floating railroad ties, trees and trash strewn by the storm.
Like others forced from the evacuation zone, Mincey said he was eager to assess water damage and begin repairs while hoping for financial aid to deal with property damage.
(To view a graphic on Harvey’s energy impact, click tmsnrt.rs/2xzso1S)
ANOTHER HURRICANE THREATENS
As the recovery from Harvey picked up speed, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard in preparation Irma, a dangerous Category 4 hurricane closing in on a string of Caribbean islands.
Irma could pummel the U.S. territory on Wednesday and it also poses a threat later in the week to the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Florida, which declared a state of emergency on Monday evening.