HOUSTON (Reuters) - A tropical storm may form off the Texas Gulf Coast by Friday, bringing heavy rains to areas already drenched in the past few weeks, U.S. government and private forecasters said on Tuesday.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said a tropical wave on the north coast of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico had a 70 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone within five days.
The United States is already bracing for Hurricane Florence, a major Category 4 hurricane expected to make landfall on the U.S. East Coast on Friday, bringing high winds and days of heavy rains.
Over 45 percent of U.S. oil refining capacity is located along the Gulf Coast from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Pascagoula, Mississippi, along with 51 percent of the nation’s natural gas processing capacity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Satellite images show a disorganized but developing system, said Dan Kottlowski, lead hurricane forecaster for Accuweather Inc. It expects a tropical depression or weak storm to form and come ashore near Corpus Christi.
“This is the precursor of something trying to get organized,” Kottlowski said in an interview.
The U.S. Coast Guard said in a weather briefing on Tuesday that the tropical wave was expected to reach the mid- to lower Texas coast by Friday. The storm could bring 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) of rain near Corpus Christi by Sunday night, the Coast Guard said.
Portions of the Texas coast have received heavy rains in the past week as Tropical Storm Gordon drew moisture from the Gulf of Mexico inland.
A year ago, Hurricane Harvey swamped the Gulf Coast with more than 50 inches (1.3 m) or rain in some locations, shutting a quarter of U.S. refining capacity, leading to regional fuel shortages and pushing prices higher nationwide.
Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Peter Cooney