Industry Skirts Disaster as First Hurricane of Season Veers Around US

In a turn of events that should bring a sigh of relief to an oil and gas industry all too familiar with devastating hurricane seasons, Bertha, the first hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic season, is expected to veer northward from Bermuda and miss the United States and the Gulf of Mexico entirely, reports. As of 5:00 a.m. on July 8, Bertha is 1,035 miles southeast of Bermuda and moving north at 10 mph.

Bertha began life as a Category 1 storm on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity, but quickly surpassed expectations and swelled to a threatening Category 3, with sustained wind speeds of up to 120 mph, according to MSNBC. Hurricane-force winds extended about 30 miles from the storm itself. Bertha was expected to become a Category 2 before weakening.
The hurricane originally formed off the coast of the Cape Verde Islands off of Africa, an unusual development this early in the season and one that seems to confirm estimations that 2008 would be a year of significant hurricane activity. After initially charging across the Atlantic and feeding on the warm waters of the central Atlantic, Bertha is expected to meander northward, as an area of high pressure to the north dissipates. It is not expected to make landfall on the mainland United States or travel through Gulf of Mexico oil and gas fields, and will likely only affect shipping off the eastern seaboard.
The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season has been expected to be a slightly above-average year for storm activity, with estimates of around 12 to 16 named storms. The industry hopes to avoid a season like the one seen in 2005, in which 28 named storms, including hurricanes Katrina and Rita, wreaked havoc on Gulf Coast installations, severely damaging platforms and severing pipelines. According to Minerals Management Service (MMS) estimates, 3,050 of the Gulf of Mexico's 4,000 platforms and 22,000 of its 33,000 miles of pipelines were in the direct path of Katrina or Rita, which resulted in the destruction of 115 platforms, with another 52 damaged, and the damage of 535 pipeline segments. Production in the Gulf hit a near-total shutdown as a result.