U.S. Gulf Coast braces for Tropical Storm Cindy | Reuters

Communities and oil refining and production facilities from Texas to Florida braced on Tuesday for potential disruptions as Tropical Storm Cindy meandered over the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, threatening to bring wind and heavy rain to the region.

Cindy was about 280 miles (450 km) south of Morgan City, Louisiana, on Tuesday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 45 miles (75 km) per hour, the National Hurricane Center said. It was expected to approach the coast of southwest Louisiana late Wednesday and move inland over western Louisiana and eastern Texas on Thursday.

Heavy rainfall from the storm could produce life-threatening flash flooding along parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast, the NHC said.

“The winds aren’t looking to get much stronger than they are now,” but some areas east of Houston and toward Florida could see as much as 12 inches of rain, said Stephen Strum, vice president of extended forecast services at Weather Decision Technologies in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“It’s moving fairly slow, so it’s going to produce rain for a long time,” he added.

Heavy rains and wind could disrupt oil supplies at the massive refining and production centers along the U.S. Gulf Coast, which could drive up prices for consumers. The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), the largest privately owned crude storage terminal in the United States, suspended vessel offloading operations ahead of the storm, but said it expected no interruptions to deliveries from its hub in Clovelly, Louisiana.

Royal Dutch Shell said it suspended some offshore well operations but production was so far unaffected. Anadarko Petroleum said it had evacuated non-essential staff from its Gulf of Mexico facilities.

Exxon Mobil Corp, Phillips 66, and Motiva Enterprises said the storm had not affected their refining operations.

Cindy was expected to produce 6 to 9 inches (15 to 23 cm) of rain over southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, southern Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle…

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