Sept 30 (Reuters) - U.S. energy companies said on Wednesday they were preparing for the possibility that Hurricane Joaquin could hit the New York City area early next week, potentially following the destructive course of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Joaquin strengthened into a hurricane on Wednesday morning as it moves toward the Bahamas. Over the next few days, the U.S. National Hurricane Center predicted the storm would turn toward the U.S. East Coast and briefly strengthen into a Category 2 hurricane with winds reaching 110 miles per hour (95 kilometers per hour).
Although the track is still uncertain, the NHC said the storm could land anywhere from North Carolina to New York early next week with the center of the storm track pointing toward the New York metro area.
Hurricane Sandy, which killed over 70 people and caused over $50 billion in damage in the United States, followed a track similar to the one currently forecast for Joaquin, according to federal data.
In New York City, Consolidated Edison Inc said it was making sure people and equipment were prepared for the possibility Joaquin could hit the Big Apple.
"We have not entered into any sort of alert status but are making sure we have the people and equipment in the right spots," Con Edison spokesman Philip O'Brien said.
He said Hurricane Sandy was the worst storm in Con Edison's history. It left about a million of the company's more than three million customers without power in New York City and Westchester County north of the city - some in the hardest hit areas were in the dark for a couple weeks.
Con Edison is in the third year of a $2 billion four-year plan to "harden" its power infrastructure to withstand storms and flooding, O'Brien said.
That hardening included construction of a flood barrier to protect the East 14th Street power substation in Manhattan, which exploded when flooded by Sandy's storm surge.
Another energy company that has hardened its infrastructure since Hurricane Sandy is Kinder Morgan Inc, which has oil products and chemical facilities in New York and New Jersey.
"Our terminals business have all deployed their hurricane plan and set up their incident command structures as we continue to monitor the storm's projected path and movement," said Kinder Morgan spokesman Richard Wheatley.
The U.S. East Coast has nine refineries with an operable capacity of about 1.3 million barrels per day, according to government data.
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino and Robert Gibbons; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
Copyright 2016 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.
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