Tropical Storm Bill made landfall on the Texas coast Tuesday morning with sustained winds of up to 60 mph and heavy rain that’s expected to bring widespread flooding to a state experiencing one of its wettest springs on record.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Bill came ashore in the area of Matagorda County, about 90 miles southwest of Houston.
Residents have been asked to evacuate homes in low-lying areas coastal areas, schools in the Houston region are closed and people have been buying up bottled water and grocery staples ahead of Bill’s arrival.
The National Weather Service says average rainfall for portions of Texas will be 3 to 6 inches but there could be as much as 12 inches in some areas near Austin.
Bill, which prompted some energy companies to evacuate non-essential personnel earlier, is the second named storm of the six-month Atlantic hurricane season that began June 1. Gulf storms are watched closely by energy markets because offshore platforms in federal waters account for 17 percent of U.S. crude oil output and 4 percent of natural gas production, according to the Energy Department.
More than 45 percent of U.S. refining capacity and 51 percent of gas-processing capacity is located along the Gulf coast.
Royal Dutch Shell removed some non-essential workers from the Gulf and doesn’t expect weather to affect operations, Ray Fisher, a company spokesman, said in an email.
Lafayette, Louisiana-based helicopter company PHI evacuated workers from some oil platforms in the western Gulf at the request of its customers, Chief Administrative Officer Richard Rovinelli said in an email. He declined to identify the operators or say how many workers were moved.
Natural gas for July delivery added 0.9 percent to $2.915 per million British thermal units in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 2:13 p.m. Singapore time Tuesday, extending a 5.1 percent jump in the previous session. West Texas Intermediate crude traded 1.1 percent higher at $60.16 a barrel on Nymex.
Producers will likely avoid significant losses in output as a result of the storm because the system is in the western Gulf of Mexico, said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston.
“And 90 percent of the oil and gas production is south and east of New Orleans so there is very little in Texas waters,” he said.
Heavy rains are forecast to bring floods to eastern Texas, including Houston, which was hit hard in May.
In Houston, roads were closed and 2,516 homes, as well as 73 commercial buildings, were damaged by floods last month, according to the Harris County Regional Joint Information Center. At least 31 people died across Texas and Oklahoma, the Weather Channel said.
National Weather Service regional offices have issued flash flood watches and flood warnings across much of eastern Texas north into Oklahoma and east in the Louisiana.
“The main thing is just going to be the flooding rainfall that we are going to see,” said Alan Reppart, a meteorologist at commercial forecaster AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.
Texas has opened its State Operations Center to deal with the storm, Governor Greg Abbott said on his website. Residents are urged to follow weather forecasts and prepare an emergency kit and for flooding.
Dallas will open its emergency center at 6 p.m. Tuesday, the city said in a statement.
In the Pacific, Hurricane Carlos, with top winds of 75 mph, was about 115 miles west-southwest of Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico, the hurricane center said in a statement at 2 a.m. New York time. The storm is forecast to gradually weaken during the next few days.