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Lee Disrupts Power, Raises Oil Prices

Hundreds of thousands are without power after former tropical storm Lee pushed through the deep south over the holiday weekend.

As many as 200,000 lost power across Alabama, the AP reported, with most of the outages in the Birmingham area, although the number of outages fell to 187,000 by early this morning. Outages have also been reported in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Several people are missing, presumed dead, and at least one has been found drowned.

Louisiana and Mississippi were the first states to be hit by Lee over the Labor Day weekend. New Orleans experienced some street flooding but officials said the city’s flood control system was working well.

The AP reported that flood watches and warning were in effect from northeast Alabama and Tennessee through West Virginia and even to upstate New York, which is still recovering from the effects of hurricane Irene.

South Florida Business Journal said that many refineries were closed and evacuated, causing a rise in oil and gas prices. Reuters reported on Sunday that more than half of Gulf oil production and nearly half of natural gas output were shut in.

“Retail gas prices rose an average of five cents last week in the Southeast and are expected to increase further this week after Lee disrupted Gulf refining,” AAA Auto Club South spokeswoman Jessica Brady said.

No refining companies have reported outages, and ExxonMobil said on Sunday that it was returning workers to its platforms, Platts reports. Shell also said on Sunday that it was returning some workers to platforms in the western Gulf of Mexico, but that operations in the central Gulf platforms remained shut.

Meanwhile, hurricane Katia (pictured) today weakened from a category 4 to category 3 storm, and it is forecast to veer away from the U.S. over the next week. But the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said large swells from the hurricane could affect the U.S. east coast, Bermuda, the Greater Antilles and parts of the Bahamas over the next few days, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Picture credit: MODIS Land Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC

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