Resource Page--UPDATED for Landfall

One of our industry insiders said: "The worst tracks are those which put landfall between Freeport and Sabine Pass Texas. [...] The big concentrations of platforms are in the West Cameron, High Island, Galveston, and Matagorda Island offshore areas. If you want to know what these areas look like and where they are geographically, try the map resources below. Landfall just east of Houston's center will be right up refinery alley. Another bad spot is right up through Port Arthur and Beaumont - another big refining center."

-It is very difficult to assess refinery damage this early. It will depend on restoration of power, etc.; the situation could continue to worsen depending on how or if Rita stalls or returns to the Gulf. Flooding could be major portion of this storm, not the hurricane winds. The KAC/UCF numbers (linked below in next section) predict damage to four refineries, totalling around 800-900k BOPD of capacity, but those are pretty experimental.

-There is also an SPR site (Big Hill) close to the damage swath. Won't be word on that for a while.

-Oil and Natural Gas production damage is a bit easier to estimate, thanks to the KAC/UCF predictions on the final hurricane data (linked below, which were quite accurate after Katrina, but do not account for two storms back to back...a lot of crews that were fixing Katrina damage will not be available to fix Rita damage as quickly as these numbers estimate, so I consider these numbers conservative): This is the percentage of capacity "shut in" or lost for <10days, 10-30days, 30-60days

Oil: 66.5%, 20.2%, 14.5%; Nat Gas: 58.2%, 28.4%, 18.1%.

And what does that mean you ask? That means that for 10 days or less, cumulatively from Rita and Katrina, we are predicted to lose around 1M BOPD of oil production and 5.8 BCFPD of Natural Gas production (GOMEX total capacity 1.5M BOPD of oil and 10.0 BCFPD of Natural Gas...for perspective, the US uses 20.4ishM BOPD of the world's 84M BOPD produced...yes, that's PER DAY). For over 30 days, the estimates indicate that, JUST FROM RITA, we will lose 225k BOPD of oil production and 1.8 BCFPD of NG. Add those to the BEST shut in numbers we were experiencing after Katrina (before Rita hit) which were 837k BOPD of oil and 3.375 BCFPD of NG, and, well...that's a lot of US production capacity, around 1M BOPD of oil and about 5.3 BCFPD of NG. Again, I want to emphasize that these numbers are estimates at this point...but those data were pretty darned good last time.

The real questions that press us now are these: how long will it take to get power back? how many rig repair teams exist? how much will flooding impact the refineries as well as the repair efforts? What happened to the LOOP, how much storm surge hit it? What happened to the pipelines in the area (no way to know until power is restored)? What is the status of inland energy storage, for example gasoline in NJ and winter heating oil inventories? (thanks for that bhyde). We shall see.


And here's the latest KAC/UCF GOMEX model predictions for "shut in" (i. e., damaged) oil and natural gas production. Predictions are worse with the strengthening at 0000z

A decent amount of refinery damage forecast with the latest data. (very experimental, but "over 5% damage at an industrial site is BAD NEWS")

And then there's the REALLY experimental toxic substances/other chemicals damage data. Scary.


And here's the probably the best MMS map I could find. Very detailed and lots of interesting stuff. (big .pdf warning)

Awesome interactive map of rigs and hurricane path from Rigzone. Highly recommended.

Here's another good resource for infrastructure maps and such. (scroll down a bit)

Here's a map from CNN with large and small refineries laid out. (though it is an old storm track)

Here's a list of refining capacity and percentages of overall capacity by area inside the region. (thanks Jaymax) We're talking about 20% of US refining capacity folks.

Here's a listing of all oil related industry (refining, etc) in Texas.

Update [2005-9-23 0:33:24 by Prof. Goose]:Very detailed piece by RIGZONE on rigs and other infrastructure in the area. (thanks mw)

Update [2005-9-23 2:39:56 by Prof. Goose]:Here's a beautiful flash graphic of the oil refineries and rig maps, emphasizing Beaumont and Galveston's importance. Note the many rigs on the east side of the storm that will get the brunt of the damage from the NE quad of the storm...hence the high long-term GOMEX oil production damage estimates below.

Here's the latest MMS shut in numbers. Huge amounts of capacity shut in folks, but for how long?

And here's a mapblast of Houston.


An easier to see plot of a few of the models... There are chances that Rita could stall completely or even return to the Gulf.

Here's the latest computer models for Rita...all sorts of uncertainty in the models now. If some of those come to pass it would be disastrous. (this should dynamically update throughout the day.)

And here's the latest of the 'big five' models, also turning a bit to the right of the last track

And here's the latest 3-day track.

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Here's a Google map showing Galveston, the Houston Ship Channel, Texas City, etc.

From an evacuation standpoint, note that there are only two ways off Galveston island at this end: the causeway bridge (which is only open until the winds get too high, yellow stripe on this map) and the ferryboat across to the bolivar penninsula, which wont' do much good since a) it's slow, b) they have to shut it down when wind/wave action gets high, and c) it puts you on a less sheltered barrier island.  If you click over to satellite you'll see that these islands are really just tall sandbars.  Pelican Island (the largish island between Galveston and the Ship Channel) was basically created by dredging the channel.

The refinery workers are all further inland (Texas City, La Marque, etc) but FEMA says a Cat III can cause flooding there, so if the storm becomes a Cat III they'll be told to evacuate.

My understanding is that, in a hurricane moving west or northwest, the strongest winds and the highest storm surge are in the eyewall on the north or northeast side of the eye, since that is where the motion of the hurricane itself adds to the windspeed.

So a landfall of the eye just south of Galveston could be the worst-case scenario for Galveston, Galveston Bay, and the refineries just north of Galveston Bay.

Yes, it would basically shove the storm surge straight up the Houston ship channel if that were to happen (seems to me)

I guess what their industry insider is saying is that there are even MORE refineries / operations east of Houston and toward Louisiana that would be more spared as the storm tracks further west and south (if that makes ANY sense at all)

Rigzone has a somewhat descriptive article providing a little more detail on what Rita might hit:

On her journey, Rita will start out passing through the frontier areas of Walker Ridge and Keathley Canyon. From there, she will continue to move northwest across the eastern portions of Garden Banks and the western portions of Green Canyon. These two areas contain a total of only about 40 offshore platforms, but all of these are major deepwater projects such as Kerr McGee's Red Hawk spar and ConocoPhillips' Magnolia field.

After passing through these deepwater areas, Rita will begin to push onto the shallower waters of the continental shelf, first reaching the southern additions of South Marsh, Vermillion, East Cameron and West Cameron. Rita is them likely to continue across the rest of the West Cameron area and reach large portions of the High Island and Galveston areas before making landfall east of the Houston area.

West Cameron, situated south of Lake Charles, LA to the TX-LA border, is likely to be one of the areas hardest hit by Rita and will most likely see some of the worst damage to its offshore installations. This area is one of the most most actively producing and explored areas in the Gulf of Mexico. It has the third highest number of unmanned offshore platforms and the fifth highest number of manned platforms of any area in the GOM, with a total of 292 unmanned and 88 manned platforms. Additionally, there are a total of 22 mobile offshore drilling rigs in the West Cameron area, including 19 jackups, 2 submersibles, and 1 platform rig. Of those rigs, 10 of them are owned and managed by TODCO, The Offshore Drilling Company, which is the rig manager with the most rigs facing possible damage from Rita.

In addition to 22 rigs located in West Cameron, there are another 50+ rigs in the areas that are likely to be affected by Rita. A total of 16 semisubmersible rigs are located in the Walker Ridge, Garden Banks, and Green Canyon areas that Rita will be passing through late Thursday and early Friday morning. Closer to shore, there are 25 jackup rigs in the areas of High Island, East Cameron, Vermilion, and Galveston that will be catching much of the force of Rita mid-to-late-day on Friday.

thanks mw, I'll move that out front.
Here's a link to a Rita wind field graphic, that I found really informative previously as Katrina came ashore.

And for those of you interested in Sea Surface Temperatures (SST) there is a better model for tropical cyclone (hurricane) intensity based upon Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential (TCHP).  As most know, a hurricane is powered by transferring heat from the ocean surface to the upper atmosphere.

From the article

The thickness of the upper ocean layer from
the sea surface to the depth of the 26°C
isotherm is only a few tens of meters in most of
the tropical regions.A passing tropical cyclone
draws energy from these warm waters and
mixes them with the cooler waters below.
This creates upwelling; the depth of the base
of the mixed layer is raised,and the temperature
of the surface waters is subsequently lowered.
These cooler waters now provide less energy
to the tropical cyclones, most likely slowing
the rate of intensification.On the other hand,
the depth of the 26°C isotherm in the core of
warm currents (such as the Loop Current in
the Gulf of Mexico) and warm anticyclonic
rings may reach more than a hundred meters.
This type of condition has values of thermal
energy that are usually several times larger
than those associated with the genesis and
sustainability of a tropical cyclone, and it is
found in most regions where tropical cyclones
Understanding the role of these warm
features in the intensification of hurricanes
in the tropical North Atlantic is an ongoing
research topic that is still at an early stage.
Preliminary results have shown their importance
in the sudden intensification of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico [Shay et al., 2000].
For example, in September 1995,Hurricane
Opal suddenly intensified when passing over
a warm ring that had gone undetected by the
sea surface temperature derived from the
Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer
(AVHRR) imagery. In August 1999,Hurricane
Bret also traveled over two warm features in
the Gulf of Mexico, and it intensified each
time. Since then, the monitoring of the upper
ocean thermal structure has become a key
element in understanding and predicting
sudden tropical cyclone intensification.

TCHP is measured in heat energy per sea water surface area (kilo Joules per square centimeter).  A passing hurricane will subtract heat measuring 60-100 kJ/cm2, so THCP values above 80 kJ/cm2 are especially dangerous.  You will remember that Katrina rapidly intensified from a Category 2 to a Category 5 hurricane, and that occured just as it passed over an area of high TCHP (80+ kJ/cm2) in the Gulf of Mexico.

Here is the link to the dynamically updated graphic of TCHP for the Gulf of Mexico:

Click on the thumbnail for a larger image.  There is also a historical link on this page for the TCHP data and track for Katrina.

This is very interesting. It appears from the 26°C Isotherm graphic that Rita will pass over high TCHP areas tomorrow and gain intensity. I think that NHC is thinking Rita could become a Category 3 on Wednesday.

We are in limbo now and throughout tomorrow. I call Thursday the "Day of Judgement" -- when the hurricane will begin its jog to the Northwest -- and Friday is the "Day of Reckoning" -- when the hurricane will pass through whatever oil & gas infrastructure it is going to hit -- probably at its maximum intensity. We will know on that day whether the Texas refineries are going to be heavily damaged.

All indications look like most of Louisiana, including New Orleans, will be spared the worst. Thank God.
Right, it looks like Rita will pass over a pool of high TCHP sea water about 2 PM Wednesday.  NOAA forecasts an increase of surface winds to 115 knots (132 MPH) in that time frame.  With regard to global warming, I would like to see Gulf of Mexico total TCHP statistics archived so that as years pass we can see if total TCHP is increasing as global warming might predict.  This would explain the increase in tropical cyclone intensity that has been the subject of recent academic articles (

Likewise GOM rig operators can see if their rigs are sitting near persistent pools of high TCHP sea water - they should be eventually be raised up to withstand higher expected storm waves.

Wednesday 2 PM, Rita upgraded to a strong category 4 - just as it passes over an area of high TCHP.  Rita presents very rapid intensification, further confirming TCHP theory.
Consider a broad issue underlying this thread: weather has recently become a consuming topic on TOD, with good reason. Put it in the context of world oil. We've always acknowledged:

-geological risks: how big are the reserves, will we find more, are the reservoirs being overproduced? ...

--geopolitical risks: a higher share of world output coming from less stable places, pressure on big consuming nations ...

--socio-economic risks: issues of public policy, demand elasticity, human perception and behaviour, environmental damage ...

--Now, weather risk. We're implicitly saying that natural events, which may be growing more severe but certainly aren't new, are a risk that can throw the whole world system off track.

Put it all together: we're on a knife-edge of supply versus demand, with no safety margin. All types of risk are increasing, at a time when we can't afford any real risk. Sounds like peak oil is here. Keep watching the signals of change.

Rick: I couldn't agree more.  We were in a situation where we needed everything to go our way, and it's looking increasingly like they won't.

I've heard the predictions that say we're entering a 10- to 20-year cycle of higher tropical storm frequency (not caused by climate change) with stronger individual storms (an effect that is triggered by climate change).  

In more ways than one, 2005 could mark the beginning of a protracted period in which the world, and Americans in particular, have some difficult decisions to make, from the personal level up to and including public policy.

Everyone, look out your window.  This is what interesting times look like.

I think Ivan, Katrina and now Rita will force the majors with GOM exposure to dramatically reassess their costs of operation in the region:  platforms, wells, and pipelines will need to be built or upgraded to withstand stronger storm intensities.  It's no longer politically acceptable within these organizations to disregard the chance of a direct hit by a cat 4 or 5 storm, just as it took a near direct hit for NOLA to finally get backing for better flood protection.  I'm not a mechanical engineer but I work for a sensor company that develops structural health monitoring systems and I'd expect the cost of beefing up structures to withstand cat 5 versus cat 3 storm conditions would be considerable fraction of the total value.  Any comments from someone in the industry who knows?

I think it's safe to expect that most medium and long term projects in the region will have to expand their time and cost budgets, and some of the smaller marginal fields under consideration for drilling may get put on the shelf until the assumed oil or gas sale price rises enough to cover additional expenses.

Rick, I want add to your list more two potential disasters that are coming:

-- the macro-economic risk: the dollar dive, some economists fear that it will happen at the next 5 years...
-- the public health risk: there is a high chance that H5N1 will start a pandemic flu, that  avian flu virus just need adapt to humans (and evolution happens)...

Or maybe I am being a "doom sayer" ?

João Carlos

sorry my bad english, my native language is portuguese.

Almost for sure we are at the peak Prof Deffeyes has got the date 100% right If the global oil system could run at 100% (no real system can run at anything like that) we could have a couple of years to go but it doesent and we dont.

PEAK OIL  2004-2007  

Responding to Oil Trader and Rick above that:

I have always thought of Deffeye's "Thanksgiving 2005" prediction as tongue in cheek, not sincere but meant to be taken seriously in a larger sense. However -- this should not come as a surprise -- I have seen it taken literally in some MSM articles. Check it out here
"World oil production is going to peak on American Thanksgiving, with a three-week period of uncertainty on each side," declares Princeton professor, geologist and oil maverick Kenneth S. Deffeyes. Once supply begins to dwindle, the years to follow will see shortages that, at best, will cause "global recession, possibly worse than the 1930s Great Depression," says Deffeyes. At worst, he warns of "war, famine, pestilence and death."

Deffeyes' prediction is clearly controversial.
Anyway, I entirely agree that a world delivery system can not run for any significant period of time at 100% of capacity. I would be a bit cautious right now about predicting the end times ;) based on two hurricanes.
I always though Deffeyes was tongue in cheek about Thanksgiving Day, but I've come to believe he himself is pretty literal about it. My take, from both his books and seeing him on video, is that he knows the exact day is arbitrary, but he's pretty serious about the peak occurring within a 6 week window. He's fitted a lot of curves. Take a look at Ken on video:

If he's not serious, he does a good deadpan.

End times? Too early for that. Anyway, Michael Stipe (a noted authority) says the end will start with an earthquake. It is a safe bet that we'll see more hurricanes.

Lately, Stuart has also fitted some curves. Rembrandt came out with his report but did not see a peak before 2013. CERA sees no peak before 2020. HO believes it's worthwhile to look at scheduled oil production over the next few years and so do I. ASPO sees the peak as being in the 2007/2009 period depending on who you read. If Duffeyes is actually serious -- 11/2005 -- then I regard that as a problem for the peak oil community. I don't want to see anymore "crying wolf" predictions that don't pan out. I don't believe Deffeyes' prediction and I hope he's not serious. But, we're close to peak oil time and this statement depends how much time we're talking about. I view that as some number of years -- 0? 1? 3? 5? -- but not less than 10 years.

On the other hand, Jim Kunstler today and Matt Simmons see this winter as pretty much Apocalypse Now with respect to Energy prices and supply. I don't know but I will say that Natural Gas prices are just about doubling in the next few months everywhere in the US, a topic which as been much neglected here at TOD.

When I said "end times", perhaps you missed the smiley ;) I attached to that text.
On Deffeyes being serious: from Beyond Oil, 2005: "My estimate of the peak date of the smooth curve is November 24, 2005, Thanksgiving Day. The uncertainty is roughly one month on either side of Thanksgiving Day." and "It looks as if the Hubbert Peak is upon us. Whether the maximum year is 2003 or 2005 doesn't matter much. It's real and it's here." Note that in 2005 he's still mooting the possibility that the peak was in 2003.

from Hubbert's Peak, 2001 (I know, ages ago): "Similarly, the year 2000 may be the year of maximum world production, and the mathematical midpoint will be 2004 or 2005. There is nothing plausible that could postpone the peak until 2009. Get used to it."

Any way you look at it, Ken is an early peaker, though later than several others. I personally am in the 2008-ish camp, but I've got a pretty wide confidence interval around that date.

As for credibility and "crying wolf" predictions: there is a big problem with this, and I don't see it going away. Michael Lynch often uses past incorrect predictions as ammunition for his arguments. As for future predictions: they can easily be correct, but look wrong, even after the fact, for 2 reasons: 1) We won't be able to see the peak until some time after it occurs. 2) We may well get a bumpy plateau with very little peakedness about it--it could be a flat top of some years duration instead of a pointy peak. Under these circumstances, a correct prediction could easily look wrong. This, of course, cuts our preparation time even further.

Yes, I saw the smiley. I just find Stipe clever, jaded, and appropriate for many circumstances. Recall that the same song with all its apocalyptic imagery includes "eye of a hurricane." We're all working hard to assimilate this issue, and we should try to feel fine.

Guess I'm wrong about Duffeyes' intent. Although as you and Lou note, he may have just got lucky with this second storm coming in.
About the natural gas, yes, being in the North East, I am very concerned. On the downside, it looks like Rita could shut in even more NG than Katrina.  On the upside, maybe Canada has more NG to sell us than is expected.

My gloom scenario:  a tight NG market is disrupted this winter.  NG is prioritized for home heat over electrical production.  NG-heated homes are dark, but warm.  Many oil-heated homes, with electrically powered furnaces, become dark and cold.  Pipes freeze, water spews, and a significant number of New Englanders are effectively, if temporarily, transported back about 100 years in life style.

Here's a link to the navy map that I'm always drawn to.  IIRC they were fairly accurate on the Katrina track (when the weather channel was still thinking it would hit Pensicola)

Updated periodically; I would hope more frequently as time goes on.

please keep us updated on any changes from this site.

As being very close to Houston is very important to me! from a layman's standpoint, being up north of Houston, around Conroe, I've learned it's absolute "bedlam" at the shopping facilities, ie walmart, Target etc... all the water is being bought up. Funny thing , I thought the water from the tap was just fine. I have stored enough water to keep be going. So i should be OK, but lets see how it goes. Shotgun is loaded! Leatherman secured on my hip! Ready to Rock! bring it on!

walmart was a real madhouse. People everywher, worse than Xmas shopping. all the water was bought up, as soon as it entered the building. Funny thing, I thought the Govt. would bring us water and food! Oh by the way, C and D cell batteries are GONE, Canned goods are gone, plenty of frozen food though!

Note: Houston and it's greater area is the 4th largest city in the USA.
It is so congested here.

please keep us posted of the latest on the map projections


I'm from the 1960 area of Houston, not terribly far from Conroe. Things have been nuts at the malls and stores since all the Katrina evacuees came here. Everywhere you go it's crowded like at Christmas time.

Luckily I stocked up on stuff a few weeks ago. I'm going to try to locate some bottled water tomorrow. I haven't decided whether I'm going to stick around or not. I remember how bad tropical storm Allison was and really don't look forward to something that is similar to that. If we don't get a direct hit I'm not too worried. Unless it hits within 100 miles as a category 4 or category 5. Let's hope it doesn't decide to stall out like Allison did.

Question PG: What are the "big five" models? NHC model results are basically an averaged "ensemble" result. Yes, looks like a Category 4....
it's supposedly the five most trusted models, unlike this link, which is every single model out there.

(at least that's what I understand about it...)

So then what's the link for the "five best models" graphic?
Oh, that link is working now.
If a Cat4-5 storm blows straight up refinery alley, on the heels of Katrina's shut in production, this country is going to be served a Peak Oil appetizer next week. Im surprised futures arent even higher based on the slight northward movement and RIC tonight.
appetizer?  ha.  I'm thinking five course dinner with a nice sweet dessert of crow.  
I too am in Houston on the NW side at beltway 8 and 290. Last night on the way home from work every gas station I went by had at least 8-10 cars lined up. The nabors I talked to said they could not find water at the local stores? I had already put in over 22gal as part of my peak oil preps so I guess in this case getting ready for peak oil is showing to be useful! Now that Rita has just been upgraded to a cat4 at 135mi hr I just have to find a way to save the 10+ small fruit and nut trees I have put in. This could get bad if she hits too close. Living in a moblie home on white oak buyo dosn't help eather!
If she puts a 20+ft storm surge up the ship channel it could be vary bad!


It has baffled me for some time that mobile homes are popular in areas where hurricanes can hit. Is it even be possible to insure them?

Why do people take this risk? And why do for instance insurance companies accept it?

Simple economics.

Not everyone can afford to build a home, or build a sturdy home (there are many homes I see selling for $100,000 that seem to be more lightly constructed than some mobile homes)

A coastal area is like any other, you need a working class to make things go.  Working class can't afford nice housing, so they do the next best thing - they rent.  Often they rent a mobile home on a piece of land owned by one of the local upper class.

Matt Simmons just said on CNBC that Rita could be another "Pearl Harbor" for the United States.  While I agree there is that possibility, it sets up to make one of the most public vocal proponents of Peak Oil to look foolish if this cane takes a south or western route. All it takes is one public comment to look silly and the average person wont listen to him anymore (except for those whose worldviews are aligned with him).  
I agree 100%.  It's very hard for any of us involved with energy or other important topics to maintain perspective and avoid making comments that could come back to bite us later.

I hope that Rita turns out not to have a serious human or energy toll, and that Simmons doesn't get marginalized as a result.

I try very hard to remain agnostic on energy issues where I don't see enough information to reach a firm conclusion.  But there's so much at stake that it can be really hard at times to avoid connecting dots that might not warrant connecting.

Simmons has also predicted very high prices (5x - 10x) for this heating season, raised a journalist to a provocative bet on oil prices, etc.  He's certainly not playing it safe.
Is it me or are the tracks moving a little west and south?  The latest Big 5 models imply Corpus and Port A should be evacuating as well.
nope, that's right Ben.  but they're saying Rita will be a really big storm...still might have 10-12 foot surge in Galveston...may have be just like the NOLA situation: a glancing blow, but enough of one.
After I posted that, I started thinking of how Katrina made a little jog to the east just before hitting shore, also.  
Remember also that the worst damage (wind and storm surge)from hurricanes is always to the northeast of the eye.  Katrina's eye basically crossed the LA/MI border but the highest recorded winds were at the MI/AL border.  In my opinion the worst strike possible would be 50-75 miles southeast of Galveston.  That would put maximum winds in the Houston area.
The models show pretty good agreement, a tight cluster. NHC discussion
The models seem to predict that it will hit between Matagorda and Surfside on the map at Third Coast.
Here's an article from Bloomberg Oil, Gasoline Rise as Platforms in Path of Hurricane Rita Shut
"Rita is developing into our worst-case scenario," said John Kilduff, vice president of risk management at Fimat USA in New York. "This is headed right into our other major refining center just after all the damage done to facilities in Louisiana. From an energy perspective it doesn't get any worse than this."
I've been lurking around this website for quite a while.  I never really had a desire to contribute, but this is a little bit closer for me than anything else so far.  

I live in the Austin, TX area.  I've been to Houston several times, and this is my general impression of what worst-case Cat 5, northeastern quadrant strike on metro Houston would do, in a social sense.  The worst situation is simply in terms of populations.  Greater Houston is inhabited by about 5.4 million people, where New Orleans housed roughly 1.2 million.  This is an area with roughly four times the population.  The kind of disasters that could happen in the same effect as the Superdome are numerous, and could be on a grander scale.  This is a decent prediction, as Houston is probably the most stratified city you'll ever go to.  The suburb of Sugarland houses the vast majority of oil engineers, executives, professionals, etc, while Houston is mainly inhabited by - how is this for dejavu - poor, black families, many of which don't have access out of the city.

Of course, it is a slightly different situation.  I'd imagine that the same sort of distaster response mechanisms that failed with 'rina won't fail with Rita, as that would be a completely unacceptable response.  But, this will more than likely be a stronger storm, hitting a higher population center.  No doubt there will be heavy casualities, and devestating destruction (refer back to the previous comment predicting $50 billion in damage.)  It's my opinion that this number may even be low.  Houston is one of the best examples, outside of LA, of urban sprawl.  The area is frickin' huge, people.  Relativly low population densities create buildings most vulnerable to destruction by high winds, where things such as apartment buildings, high rises, etc generally survive.  Couple this to the regional economy, which is already straining under the weight of Katrina (I can attest to this, as can anyone in the region, that the evacuees have generally caused alot of shortages) and there's a distinct possibility of regional economic collapse, which would effect people across the entire southeast.  And this is a scenario that completely disregards possible damage to one of the largest concentrations of refineries in the country.  If we thought possible oil shortages following Katrina were bad, what about reduced production in the already strained gas refinery industry.  This isn't a market which marks delivery 6 weeks out.  It is immediate.  

I don't mean to sound alarmist, but that's just my honest assessment of what a Houston strike would do.  With any luck, the storm will head much further south, to the South Padre region.  

On a personal note, I have a question.  I already have heard people are starting to board up their homes in the Coastal region.  What I haven't heard though, is whether this should be a concern for the Austin area.  We are a good 200 miles north, but as I was looking at maps, it seems like we aren't much further north from the coast as some of the most devestated areas in Alabama were.  Since we haven't really heard anything from local officials, should evacuations, or at least, boarding up my house be something to consider?

Hi Descolada. I used to live in Austin when I was in a doctoral program at The University. If Rita hits at Matagorda as expected it will probably turn to the North (see the 5 Day Cone at the National Hurricane Center. Meaning it will pass to the East of Austin -- where's you'll no doubt get some rain.
If you survived the tropical depressions of 2001 and 2002 you should be alright.  Hurricanes lose energy very rapidly once they get over land.  They dump a lot of rain but the winds quickly get down under 75 mph as they move inland.  I lived south of San Antonio 1999-2003 and we took nearly a direct hit by Cat 1 Brett and blessed the rain.  The tropical depressions were much worse due to flooding.  

The forecast for Rita is to go well east of the Hill country so San Antonio and Austin should be okay, wind wise, because you will be on the west or southwest side of the eye.  Rain is always a problem, and if Rita would head inland and stall, there would be torrential rains.  Stay out of flood zones coming off the hills and you should be okay with the present track.

A computer simulation of potential devastation to Galveston from a Category 4 storm.

Yeah, I am afraid of a significant turn to the Northwest toward Galveston. And the real problem now would be that this turn might start earlier than expected. However, the latest NHC Rita discussion does not reflect this movement. Maybe the next update?
As of 5 PM EDT WED SEP 21 2005.
here a color composite of the last three forecasts.
I do not know how authorative this reference is however it says that Freeport is a likely crossing point.

"The latest model runs remain very tightly clustered along the coast of Texas, and have shifted a bit more
to the north ... with the consensus showing landfall near Freeport -- about 30 miles to the SW of Galveston.
The shift by the models is supported and consistent with the initialization data for the location and strength of the
strong, but now weakening High Pressure ridge over the Gulf coast states. This ridge is forecast to
weaken further and drift eastward during the next 48-72 hours, and will allow Rita to begin heading more
northwestward starting in about 24-36 hours, and then taking a NNW track for during the final 18-24 hours
prior to landfall. The storm's forward motion of 10Kts is not expected to change, and as long as it maintains
a forward motion in excess of 10Kts -- no appreciable weakening due to upwelling of cooler sub-surface waters
seems likely. What may support weakening prior to landfall is some increased shear to the northwest of the
storm as it approaches the coast -- and some weakening in the outflow channels. .

Rita could reach the coast as a CAT 5 hurricane, though a strong CAT 4 seems most probable.. But even if the
storm does weaken for any one of the above reasons -- with eye wall replacement being the most probable --
there is no doubt that a CAT 5 Storm Surge will hit the coast. With the still expanding and intensifying
circulation field -- the storm may produce a CAT 5 storm surge for a 60-80 mile stretch of coast line from near
the point of landfall and extending to the northeast."

No good!!!!

Reference -

A list of coastal Texas refineries by area, taken from the Texas Oil infrastructure page linked in the article.  The refineries are much less spread out than the CNN map would suggest.  Refinery capacity figures are thousand bbl per day. Percentages are of the ~17mbpd total US operable refining capacity figure used in the EIA weekly reports.

Louisianna Border area 1120k (6.5%)
Beaumont ExxonMobil 349k
Port Arthur Motiva 285k
Port Arthur Premcor 255k
Port Arthur Total 234k

Galvaston (Houston coastal) area 1710k (10%)
Texas City BP 437k
Texas City Marathon 72k
Texas City Valero 210k
Pasadena Crown Central 100k
Deer Park Refining 334k
Baytown ExxonMobil 557k

Houston and nearby inland area 580k (3.4%)
Houston Citgo  270k
Houston Valero 83k
Sweeny ConocoPhillips 229k

Corpus Christi area 590k (3.5%)
Corpus Christi Citgo 156k
Corpus Christi Flint Hills 288k
Corpus Christi Valero 142k


With something like this headed towards a refinery, what action is the operator likely to take?  
According to this BP have/are shutting down their Texas City Refinery, and Shell have/are the Deer Park, and Motiva Port Arthur. It also mentions that Shell's Louisiana and New Orleans Motiva Refineries are still running.  

ExxonMobil are shutting down Beaumont and Baytown according to Reuters via ABC.  Total has evacuated it's Port Arthur refinery, and I assume that means a shutdown as well.

My googling and wire service search skills can't find solid info on the others at the moment, sorry!

I surimposed the last wind swath form NOAA on the NY times oil infrastructure map to get an idea of the extent of the storm:

picture here.

red= Hurricane force winds
yellow= tropical force winds

Would you please put the graphic back up?  I would like to see the current status as the days go by (if its not too much bandwidth).  Thanks!
Liz, it updated the time lapse itself, so it only showed the last hour...and now it's over land (that's why I took it down...).  I'll try to find the whole lapse for you though.