Tropical Storm Emily strengthens over night

By Phaedra Friend Troy

The severe tropical wave heading across the Atlantic Monday was upgraded to Tropical Storm Emily over night, as the Caribbean Islands brace for her arrival. 

Traveling westward at a rate of 16 miles per hour, Tropical Storm Emily is churning through the Caribbean Sea, with Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba in her sights. 

With sustained winds reaching 40 miles per hour, Tropical Storm Emily is expected to bypass the Gulf of Mexico, turning toward the west-northwest as the storm is expected to make its way toward Florida. 

Oil and gas operators are keenly aware of the threat these storms pose to offshore production facilities, subsea pipelines and drilling rigs, as well as coastal refineries. The first to affect production in 2011, Tropical Storm Don forced evacuations and the shut-in of more than 11 percent of oil and 6 percent of the natural gas produced in the US Gulf of Mexico. No one was injured, and no facilities damaged. 

In 2005, the one-two punch of Category 5 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed 115 platforms and damaged another 52 facilities, as well as 535 pipeline segments, and forced a near-total shut-down of oil and gas production in the US Gulf. Despite the storm’s wrath, no lives were lost. 

Learning lessons from those storms and others, the offshore industry and regulatory agencies have worked hard to improve safety and design features on facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.

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