The National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Harvey is "rapidly intensifying" after the storm was upgraded to a full-blown hurricane Thursday afternoon with wind speeds topping 85 miles per hour.
Hurricane Harvey is set to make landfall on the center of the Texas coast late Friday, possibly bringing with it life-threatening storm surge and freshwater flooding, the National Weather Service warned. Harvey is presently about 335 miles southeast of Corpus Christi and could be a Category 4 storm by the time it makes landfall.
At 2:00 P.M. Thursday, Harvey showed sustained maximum wind speeds of 85 miles per hour, topping the hurricane-level threshold of 74 miles per hour. Though Harvey's sustained wind speeds are high, the storm is slow-moving at just 10 miles per hour in a north northwest direction. That causes extra concern for flooding and storm surge as Harvey hovers over the Texas coast this weekend.
IBM-owned (IBM) The Weather Channel said Harvey could bring more than two feet of rain to the coast, as well.
The Gulf of Mexico, where Harvey is gaining strength in warm ocean waters, is home to 5% of U.S. natural gas production, 17% of U.S. crude oil production and over 45% of the U.S.'s total petroleum refining capacity, according to Energy Information Administration data.
Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) shut down its Perdido floating oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico and Exxon Mobil (XOM) reduced production flow to its Gulf platforms in preparation for Harvey. Anadarko Petroleum (APC) has pulled some workers from its Gulf refineries, as well.
The Houston ship channel has been closed for incoming vessels, meaning crude tankers aren't heading into the port from the Gulf.
WTI crude oil futures were down 1.1% Thursday afternoon. Shell, Exxon and Anadarko shares all traded slightly down.
Airlines affected include Southwest Airlines Co (LUV) , headquartered in Dallas, and American Airlines Group Inc (AAL) , headquartered in Fort Worth. Southwest shares traded down 1.3% late Thursday afternoon. American Airlines stock was down 1.4%.
Insurance companies could face an onslaught of claims following the storm. Policyholder-owned State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co dominates the market in Texas, followed by Allstate Corp (ALL) , Farmers Insurance and United Services Automobile Association, according to data from A.M. Best Co.
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