Lee weakened to a depression from a tropical storm after making landfall and soaking Louisiana and much of the Gulf Coast. Flooding from the storm is expected to move into the Tennessee Valley and southern Appalachians.
Lee’s winds have lost strength and are below tropical-storm force in the Gulf of Mexico, which accounts for 27 percent of U.S. oil output and 6.5 percent of natural gas production.
“Flash flooding is the biggest threat with Lee, and will remain the big story into this week,” Andy Mussoline, a meteorologist with AccuWeather.com Inc. in State College, Pa., said Sunday.
High pressure expected to form over the Northeast may deflect both Lee and Hurricane Katia, where East Coast storm surf is developing, from areas flooded a week ago by Hurricane Irene.
Lee will continue to dump rain, with accumulations of as much as 20 inches in some areas. About 10.4 inches had fallen in Pascagoula, Miss., as the center of the storm approached, the National Weather Service said.
Entergy Corp., owner of Louisiana’s largest utility, battled rain and wind after restoring electricity to all but about 8,930 of the 38,000 homes and businesses that lost it Sept. 3 in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas, said Philip Allison, a spokesman for New Orleans-based Entergy. The number of outages will fluctuate depending on local conditions, the company said.
Lee eased Louisiana’s worst drought since 1902, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Rainfall through July was 11 inches lower than average although August precipitation was higher than normal, the center said. Most rain missed Texas, where the driest year on record continues.
The Storm Prediction Center said there were eight reports of tornadoes touching down in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle on Sept. 3. Twisters were reported in Sumrall, Miss., and Crystal Lake, Fla., with no damage to structures.
The storm shut down about 60 percent of Gulf oil production and 44 percent of gas output, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. That equates to about 843,223 barrels of oil and 2.3 billion cubic feet of gas, the bureau said on its website.
Lee may keep some offshore oil workers ashore until Tuesday, said Mike Hurst, chief pilot of PHI Inc. in Lafayette, La. The company is the largest provider of helicopters to Gulf oil producers.
“Weather may permit flying to some oil and gas platforms near the coast in the western Gulf of Mexico,” Hurst said.
Crude oil in New York fell as much as 1.9 percent to $84.82 a barrel today after some oil companies resumed production and returned staff to Gulf facilities.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc said it began returning some workers to its facilities in the western Gulf. The company evacuated 858 workers ahead of the storm.
Exxon Mobil Corp., the largest U.S. oil company, is returning staff to some offshore platforms and has begun to restore some production, spokesman David Eglinton said.
Production resumed at Anadarko Petroleum Corp.’s Nansen, Boomvang and Gunnison platforms, the operator said on its website. Its Constitution, Marco Polo, Independence Hub, Neptune and Red Hawk installations will be staffed and started as soon as possible, The Woodlands, Texas-based Anadarko said.
Parts of the East Coast are still drying from Hurricane Irene, which made landfall on Aug. 27. It cut a path of destruction from North Carolina to Maine, leaving 45 people dead and 6.69 million homes and businesses without power.
Hurricane Katia weakened over open water in the Atlantic, according to a National Hurricane Center advisory at 5 a.m. New York time. The system, a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 100 miles per hour, was about 605 miles south-southeast of Bermuda traveling northwest at 12 mph.
Katia may strengthen into a major hurricane with winds of at least 111 mph, though the hurricane center said it’s no threat to land as it churns over waters on a path expected to take it east of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and west of Bermuda. The center warned of dangerous surf conditions developing along most of the East Coast and Bermuda.
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