Storm Beryl heads for Texas, may regain hurricane force


(Reuters) – Tropical Storm Beryl was heading northwest over the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday and was expected to strengthen back into a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall on the Texas coast late in the evening.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center issued hurricane warnings across much of the Texas coast, and Corpus Christi closed its port ahead of the gale force winds that were expected to hit the area. Parts of eastern Texas were on flood watch ahead of the storm, which had maximum wind speeds of 60 mph (96 kph) as of Sunday morning.

Earlier this week the storm, which at one point intensified to a Category 5 hurricane, left a deadly trail of destruction across the Caribbean. It swept through Jamaica, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in addition to unleashing heavy rainfall on northern Venezuela.

It has claimed at least 11 lives, tearing apart buildings while felling power lines and trees.

Beryl last made landfall on Friday, crossing Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and causing power outages in some areas. However, it largely spared the top beach destinations there and caused no casualties. Video showed the international airport at Cancun packed with tourists on Saturday as they rescheduled their flights home after the storm.

With the storm now approaching Texas, the National Weather Service warned of storm surges causing coastal flooding and rip currents.

OIL REFINERIES

Most of the northern Gulf’s offshore oil and gas production is east of Beryl’s forecast track.

Citgo Petroleum Corp has said it plans to keep the Corpus Christi refinery running at minimum production as the storm moves up the coast.

Shell shut down production on its Perdido platform in the Gulf and evacuated workers there. Shell said it also evacuated workers from the Whale platform, which is due to start production later this year.

Gibson Energy, which operates a large oil terminal in Corpus Christi, said operations were continuing, but it would take further steps depending on the forecast.

(Writing by Chizu Nomiyama; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)



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