U.S. energy companies prepared for the arrival of Hurricane Joaquin in the New York area Tuesday, as forecasts suggested the storm would head up the U.S. East Coast, following a course similar to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. With the storm currently battering the Bahamas and days away from the United States, New York-area energy firms were putting personnel and key emergency equipment in place to counter possible heavy winds and flooding similar to those that hit the region three years ago.
None of the companies was shutting oil, gas or power facilities yet, but they said they were better prepared than before Sandy, after using the last three years to strengthen infrastructure to better withstand another storm. Although the ultimate trajectory of Joaquin was shifting and uncertain, the U.S. National Hurricane Center’s latest forecast indicated the storm would likely land about 100 miles (161 kilometers) east of New York City in eastern Long Island as a tropical storm. Earlier NHC forecasts suggested the storm would hit the New Jersey coast and New York harbor as a tropical storm.
The New York harbor is home to several oil refineries, pipelines and other energy infrastructure. Other weather models, however, project Joaquin could hit anywhere along the East Coast from the Carolinas north, or remain out at sea without making landfall in the United States. The U.S. East Coast has nine refineries with an operable capacity of about 1.3 million barrels per day, according to government data.
With the potential for the storm to hit the New York harbor, energy traders earlier on Thursday bid up the price of U.S. gasoline and crude oil futures by over 3 percent on news Joaquin had strengthened and was expected to intensify further over the next few days. But with the latest NHC forecast showing the storm could miss the New York Harbor, gasoline futures turned negative and crude futures were flat.
Joaquin is packing maximum sustained winds of 125 miles per hour (205 kilometers per hour) as it batters the Bahamas, the NHC said in its latest update. It is expected to strengthen into a Category 4 storm with winds reaching 140 mph on Friday as it turns north toward the U.S. East Coast. The NHC expects Joaquin to weaken over the weekend before making landfall in eastern Long Island as a tropical storm with maximum winds of 65 mph on Tuesday.