Hurricane Sandy strengthened on Monday as it headed toward the East Coast, prompting governors to order evacuations, airlines to cancel an estimated 6,000 flights, US equity markets to close trading floors, public transit to suspend service in cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., and more than two-third’s of the region’s refining capacity to shutdown.
About 50 million people live in the path of the so-called Frankenstorm, a rare hybrid winter cyclone that is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge, coastal hurricane winds and snow in the Appalachian Mountains, the US National Hurricane Center said. The storm could bring a surge as high as 10 feet in Manhattan and between six and 11 feet in the Long Island Sound and New York Harbor, the US National Hurricane Center said.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued evacuations orders for 375,000 people living in low-lying area of New York City. Evacuations have also been ordered for New Jersey’s coastal barrier islands and along Connecticut’s coast, and for casinos in Atlantic City.
Insured losses from the storm may exceed $6 billion in the US, led by costs in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and New York, reported Bloomberg.
Phillips 66’s 238,000-barrel-per-day Bayway plant in Linden, New Jersey is winding down operations; Philadelphia Energy Solutions has started to shut down units at its 330,000 barrel per day refinery; and two other plants are also moving toward a full shutdown, closures that will impact more than two-thirds of the East Coast’s refining capacity, reported Reuters.
Benchmark gasoline futures rose almost 4 percent to $2.80 a gallon and heating oil rose 1.2 percent to $3.14 a gallon in thin trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange’s electronic system, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, US oil prices fell below $86 a barrel.
Last month, Hurricane Isaac hit the Gulf Coast, causing more than one million power outages in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi and shutting in as much as 95 percent of oil and 72 percent of natural gas production as operators evacuated rigs and platforms ahead of the storm. Isaac also brought slight relief to farmers in some drought-stricken areas of the U.S.