|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
It should go without saying that it's time to leave New Orleans. But, I'll say it anyway: It's Time to Leave New Orleans! The risk of staying in New Orleans is unacceptable. This is a huge and dangerous storm that has already killed a lot of people. The projected track and strength of Gustav is very close to that of Hurricane Betsy of 1965, the Category 3 hurricane that overwhelmed New Orleans' levees, and killed 76 people. Get out now.
Crude-oil and natural-gas shipments from the Gulf of Mexico were curtailed and Valero Energy Corp., the largest U.S. refining company, cut production as Hurricane Gustav strengthened on a path to strike Louisiana within two days.
Evacuations closed the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the nation's largest crude oil terminal, and cut flows from offshore platforms into the 10,500-mile (16,900-kilometer) gas pipeline to the U.S. northeast owned by Williams Cos. Enbridge Energy Partners LP closed gas conduits out of the Gulf. Oil producers shut more output, down 6.6 percent yesterday, according to U.S. government figures.
Marathon Oil Corp., the fourth-largest U.S. oil company, said it shut production at both its Gulf platforms, as Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc raced to cut production of 800,000 barrels a day of oil by day's end. Enbridge Energy Partners LP began shutting off Gulf lines capable of bringing in 6.7 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas. Louisiana's petrochemical- producing parishes ordered residents to leave, adding that return routes will be blocked and curfews imposed by nightfall.
``Devastating storm-surge flooding'' is possible, officials in St. Charles Parish, home to three oil refineries, said in a statement. Officials urged residents to leave before a planned mandatory evacuation at noon, local time, saying Gustav may be strong enough to breach levees protecting the parish just west of New Orleans.
Oil producers halted at least 6.6 percent of output in the region, according to U.S. government figures issued yesterday. An update is due later today.
Gustav, now a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 145 (230 kilometers) per hour or more, picked up speed as it headed toward western Cuba and the U.S. Gulf Coast, the National Hurricane Center said in a bulletin. The storm was about 185 miles east of the western tip of Cuba at 11 a.m. New York time. A storm surge of 19 feet is possible at landfall in Cuba.
Gustav may strengthen before reaching the northern Gulf of Mexico in two days, the forecast said. Tropical-storm-force winds extend as far as 160 miles from the center.
Fields in the Gulf produce 1.3 million barrels a day of oil, about a quarter of U.S. production, and 7.4 billion cubic feet a day of natural gas, 14 percent of the total, government data show. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 closed 95 percent of regional offshore output and, along with Hurricane Rita, idled about 19 percent of U.S. refining capacity. Three parishes in Louisiana with refineries planned mandatory evacuations today.
The president called state leaders in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas in the early morning from the White House before heading out for a 90-minute bike ride, spokesman Scott Stanzel said.