Energy market eyes Tropical Storm Ike in Atlantic

NEW YORK (Reuters) - While power companies in Louisiana slowly restored power after Hurricane Gustav swirled across the Gulf Coast, the energy market on Wednesday kept its eye on Tropical Storm Ike as it churned across the Atlantic Ocean toward the Bahamas.

Ike was located about 835 miles east-northeast of the Leeward Islands, which include the Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Saint Martin, Barbuda, Antigua, Montserrat and Guadeloupe, the U.S. National Hurricane Centre said in its 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT) report.

The weather models forecast Ike would reach the Bahamas, Hispaniola, eastern Cuba or Jamaica by early next week.

Ike was packing winds near 65 miles per hour and should strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 74 to 95 mph in about 12 hours, a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 96 to 110 mph within 72 hours, and approach Category 3 strength with winds of 111 to 130 mph within 120 hours, the NHC forecast.

Energy traders watch for storms that could enter the Gulf of Mexico and threaten U.S. oil and gas production facilities as well as refineries along the coast.

Commodities traders likewise watch storms that could hit agriculture crops like citrus and cotton in Florida and other states along the Gulf Coast to Texas.

Since coming ashore in Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane Monday morning, the remnants of Gustav with winds of just 20 mph were located in southeastern Arkansas early Wednesday, the NHC said.


Off the north coast of Haiti, Tropical Storm Hanna continued to produce heavy rains over Hispaniola. None of the weather models projected Hanna would move into the Gulf of Mexico.

The NHC forecast Hanna would strengthen back into a Category 1 hurricane in about 36 hours before moving inland over the Carolinas later in the week.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Josephine strengthened a little this morning. It was located about 220 miles west-southwest of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands, early this morning.

The NHC, however, forecast Josephine would remain a tropical storm over the next five days as it moved west toward the Central Atlantic. It was too soon for the weather models to indicate whether Josephine would reach North America.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by John Picinich