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The perfect storm
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its tropical storm forecast Thursday morning, saying there is a 65% chance of a stronger-than-average hurricane season and only a 10% chance that it will be weaker than normal. The outlook indicates a 60% to 70% chance of 12 to 16 named storms, with six to nine becoming hurricanes and two to five turning into major hurricanes.
But it doesn't take a strongly active hurricane season to cause major disruption to oil drilling and gasoline production in the Gulf.
"The makeup of a storm can have all the difference," said Flynn. "Slow moving storms have a tendency to churn up underground pipelines, so you don't need a category five to do a lot of damage."
Andy Radford, policy adviser for oil industry trade group American Petroleum Institute (API), said the average hurricane halts oil drilling production for over a week. Rig workers are forced to evacuate two to three days before the storm hits, and as soon as it's safe to return, they have to check for damage and restart production.
"When the offshore oil pumps get shut down, it takes a lot to get them back on," said Radford.