Hurricane Matthew, the massive category-four storm, is closing in on the Bahamas. Oil storage containing upwards of 33 million barrels is at stake as the storm threatens to block Caribbean shipping this as it before moving northwest to the east coast.
Peter Symons is a Houston-based spokesperson for Statoil. In an email, Symons wrote that the company would be evacuating all nonessential employees by noon on Tuesday from the South Riding Point terminal in the Bahamian city of Freeport. The terminal is located on Grand Bahama Island. As of Tuesday, Grand Bahama Island has been issued a hurricane warning.
Houston’s own Buckeye Partners LP also runs a terminal on Grand Bahama Island that stores 26.2 million barrels. By Tuesday, phone calls and email messages made Monday and Tuesday to Buckeye regarding this terminal had not been returned.
In a phone interview, the president of Houston’s Lipow Oil Associates, Andy Lipow, discussed the two terminals. According to Lipow, the terminals “are significant for storage and are used for blending and transshipment of crude and petroleum products.”
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami reported that Hurricane Matthew’s windspeed is hitting 145 miles an hour. As a category-four storm, Matthew is considered to be powerful, dangerous, and high up on the five-point Saffir-Simpson hurricane-rating system.
Tuesday morning, Hurricane Matthew made landfall on Haiti’s southern coast. USA Today reports it to be the country’s first major hurricane above category 3 to since 1966 when Hurricane Inez battered the small nation. By Tuesday evening, the storm made landfall on Cuba’s eastern tip by 7 p.m. Central time. Kait Parker, meteorologist from The Weather Channel, said that Matthew “did not weaken even with its interaction with Hispaniola, so we’re not expecting a lot of weakening with Cuba, either.”
Up to 20 inches of rain could fall over Cuba, say forecasters.
A region of Florida between the Brevard/Volusia county line and Deerfield Beach is currently under watch as it braces for Matthew’s probable arrival.
Symons wrote that Statoil hopes to have the South Riding Point facility “fully secured” by Wednesday morning. The spokesman did not provide comment on how operations will be affected.
Two petroleum terminals are located in Jamaica whose storm warnings have been cancelled. In data collected by Bloomberg, the operators of these terminals were reported as Aegean Marine Petroleum Network Inc. and Petroleum Corp. of Jamaica. Neither group answered calls or emails that were looking for comment.
As Hurricane Matthew continues to travel north, concern of its effect on ship traffic grows. Lipow says the storm could delay ship traffic such as gasoline delivery to New York Harbor and southeastern American markets like Florida.
The U.S. has already brought home 700 military family members stationed at Guantanamo Bay. They are currently in Florida. Officials said that the 61 prisoners being held as “enemy combatants” will not be evacuated. CNN reported that after hitting Cuba, Hurricane Matthew is estimated to slam into the Bahamas before heading toward the United States. Matthew may lose some of its power by then, but could still windspeeds of up to 115 miles an hour.