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Delta Caused Major Damage; Thousands Without Power: Storm Update

Brian K. Sullivan and Sergio Chapa
·8-min read

(Bloomberg) -- Tropical Depression Delta carved a trail of significant damage through Louisiana, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power and drenching an area still recovering from the onslaught of Hurricane Laura.

The storm, now the weakest category in a class that includes hurricanes, dumped more than a foot of rain over central Louisiana, the Weather Prediction Center said Saturday, adding that heavy rainfall is expected across parts of the Southeast and central and southern Appalachians.

Delta made landfall as a hurricane at 6 p.m. local time Friday in a rural, marshy stretch west of New Orleans.

It’s the record 10th tropical storm or hurricane to hit the nation this year, the latest in a string of natural disasters in the U.S. as climate change fuels extreme weather more frequently. In California, wildfires have burned an unprecedented 4 million acres (1.62 million hectares). Democratic nominee Joe Biden said he’d take “urgent action” to tackle the cost of climate change if he becomes president.

The Atlantic, meanwhile, has spawned 25 storms this year, the second most after 2005. So many have formed that the hurricane center used up all the names on its official list in September, and has resorted to the Greek alphabet to designate new storms.

Even at its peak, Delta was weaker than the ferocious blast that Laura unleashed in late August. Delta storm came ashore near Creole, Louisiana, along a stretch of coastline that’s still in ruins from Laura.

About 92% of oil production and 62% of gas output was shut as Delta crossed the Gulf of Mexico on Friday. Operations are slowly returning to normal.

All time stamps are Eastern Standard.

Key Developments:

Houston Ship Channel Reopens to Two-Way TrafficOil Explorers Get Back to Work After Delta Rakes LouisianaShell Redeploys Offshore Crews and Drill ShipsDouble Hurricane Strikes Stem From Mix of Geography, Bad LuckOil Heads for Best Week Since June With Hurricane Battering Gulf

Biggest U.S. Oil Refinery Hobbled by Storm (5:07 pm ET)

The biggest oil refinery in America had several key production units knocked out as Delta raged, according to people familiar with operations who asked not to be identified.

It’s unclear how long it will take Saudi-owned Motiva Enterprises’s to restore the affected units at its Port Arthur, Texas, plant. The facility can refine more than 600,000 barrels of crude a day.

Meanwhile, Total SE’s nearby refinery lost power at the height of the storm and was in the process of restarting on Saturday, according to people familiar with the situation. Several units had been shut at the 225,000-barrels-a-day plant as a precaution ahead of Delta’s landfall.

Storm Produced Significant Damage: Louisiana Governor (1:20 p.m.)

“This was a very serious and a very large storm that produced significant amounts of damage,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said during a media briefing on Saturday. “We already know that there will be damage in southwest Louisiana that will be very difficult to differentiate between what was caused by Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Delta.”

About 680,000 people in the state were left without power, more than were affected by Hurricane Laura. The damage was mostly to distribution lines, rather than transmission lines, so repairs should be relatively quick, he said.

About 3,000 National Guard troops have been activated and 16 search-and-rescue choppers are airborne, he said. More than 9,000 people are in parish- and state-run shelters; that doesn’t include thousands of Hurricane Laura refugees still holed up in hotels, many of them across the state line in Texas, Bel Edwards said.

Biden Vows Urgent Action to Tackle Climate Change (12:30 p.m.)

Joe Biden promised to take “urgent action to tackle the undeniable, accelerating cost of climate change” if he beats Donald Trump in next month’s election.

“We are not fated to suffer from wave after wave of increasingly vicious climate disasters,” he said in a statement. “We can choose to be guided by science.”

More Ports Returning to Normal (11:48 a.m.)

The ports of New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Plaquemines have reopened and Port Fourchon is returning to normal operations, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Key Highway Shut by Wrecked Trucks in Louisiana (10:33 a.m.)

Interstate-10’s westbound lanes are shut outside the oil-refining hub of Lake Charles, Louisiana, after five 18-wheelers were flung over by the storm.

In the city, high-rise windows boarded up after Hurricane Laura ravaged the region six weeks ago were blown out again by Delta. Sidewalks in front of stores and offices gutted in the earlier storm were strewn with tall piles of soaking wet insulation and other debris on Saturday morning.

Delta to Weaken Further, Bring Heavy Rains (10:30 a.m.)

Delta will continue to weaken as it drifts to the northeast and will fall apart Monday somewhere over Kentucky or Ohio. Its remnants will bring heavy rain across the south and parts of the Midwest through Monday, the NHC said.

The center will cease issuing advisories for Delta, passing responsibility for what’s left of it to the U.S. Weather Prediction Center.

Houston Ship Channel Reopens to Two-Way Traffic (10:25 a.m.)

Port officials reopened the Houston Ship Channel that connects the city’s industrial eastern suburbs to the Gulf of Mexico at 6:20 a.m. Central time on Saturday, according to the Houston Pilots office, which oversees tugboat operations in the channel.

About 40 miles to the south, another key waterway known as the Brazos Ship Channel reopened at 7 a.m., the Brazos Pilots dispatch office reported. Ports at Texas City and Galveston also resummed regular operations, according to a Department of Homeland Security notice.

The Sabine-Neches Waterway, which is closer to where Delta made landfall, remained closed.

More Than 300,000 Lose Power in Storm (9:51 a.m.)

About 310,000 homes and businesses were without electricity in storm-ravaged areas of Louisiana on Saturday morning, according to Entergy Corp.

Most of the outages were concentrated in the parishes of Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, East Baton Rouge and Ouachita.

“Scout teams will begin assessing damage to the electrical grid while crews start performing restoration work,” the company said on its website. “Our teams will then focus on getting critical infrastructure back online first.”

Shell Sends Crews Back to Evacuated Oil Platforms (9:40 am)

Royal Dutch Shell Plc began redeploying workers and drilling rigs across the Gulf of Mexico as Delta moved north and out of the coastal region.

“As conditions continue to improve today and tomorrow, we are beginning the process of redeploying personnel to our assets,” the European oil giant said on its website. “All of our mobile drilling units are returning to drill sites to re-start operations.”

Storm Slides Across Louisiana; Power Lines Cut (7 a.m.)

Delta is centered about 45 miles east of Monroe and is expected to slide north-northeast over parts of Mississippi and into the Tennessee Valley through Sunday, according to the NHC’s 7 a.m. local time advisory.

It’s forecast to bring as much as 5 inches of rain across northern Louisiana, parts of Arkansas, and western Mississippi through Saturday, which could cause flooding of roads and streams. A few tornadoes could also be spawned across Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

Delta will continue to weaken as it moves northeast through Tennessee and into Kentucky where it will completely collapse by Monday.

At least 789,288 customers across Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi were without power, according to PowerOutageUS, a website that tracks utilities.

Delta Approaches Southwestern Louisiana Coast (5 p.m.)

Delta was moving northeast at about 14 mph and should make landfall on the southwestern Louisiana coast Friday evening, according to the hurricane center. The storm will then move across central and northeastern Louisiana tonight and Saturday morning.

Delta is forecast to weaken to a tropical storm after landfall Friday night and to a tropical depression on Saturday.

Key Cargo Waterway Halts Shipping on Storm (4:06 p.m.)

The Houston Ship Channel suspended operations late Thursday as weather conditions began to deteriorate hundreds of miles away from Delta’s eye.

The channel snaking through Houston’s industrial eastern suburbs is one of the most significant waterways in North America, connecting oil shippers, refiners, chemical manufacturers and grain exporters to the rest of the world.

The channel is “closed to all traffic due to high winds and seas,” Moran Shipping Agencies Inc. said in a notice on its website.

Double Hurricane Strikes Stem From Mix of Geography, Bad Luck (3:07 p.m.)

Cameron, Louisiana, is facing an unusual hurricane double strike, with Delta bearing down on a town that’s still recovering from Laura, which devastated the region just six weeks ago.

It might seem like that part of western Louisiana is just the victim of bad luck, considering that government weather data shows that it shouldn’t see another hurricane for 14 years. In fact, it’s happened before.

Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004 both blew through Sebastian, a small town on Florida’s east coast. The next year, southwest Florida was pummeled by Katrina and Wilma. And back in 1964, the southeast part of the state faced Cleo and Isbell within seven weeks.

Part of the reason is geography. Hurricanes don’t move under their own power -- they require larger weather patterns to shove them along. In the Atlantic, an atmospheric phenomenon known as the Bermuda high drags storms across the ocean and then can give them a northward push, so they smack into Florida or the Carolinas, which jut out into the ocean.

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