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Along with powerful winds, Harvey’s forecast to dump as much as 40 inches of rain on the region and cause substantial flooding, raising the potential of lengthy power outages, damaged refineries and blocked shipments of oil and agricultural products.
Harvey was moving northwest about 6 miles per hour, and is expected to slow as it meanders over southeastern Texas. The maximum sustained wind speed dropped to 110 miles (175 km) per hour from 130 miles per hour at first landfall, and additional weakening is forecast over the next two days, the NHC said.
The storm is striking a region that has a cluster of refineries that process 5 million barrels of oil a day. By Friday, about 1 million barrels a day of crude and condensate refining capacity in Texas had been shut down by companies including Valero Energy, according to company statements, government releases and people familiar with the situation.
About 22 per cent of Gulf of Mexico oil production had also been shuttered, along with the port of Corpus Christi, which ships the largest amount of US crude overseas.
If the storm does significant damage to the refineries in the region, or causes the Colonial pipeline to go offline, the effects could ripple to other parts of the country that rely heavily on the Gulf Coast for fuel supplies. Gasoline futures settled at a three-week high Friday as the storm approached.