New Orleans could evacuate; oil prices rise as Gustav approaches

| 8/28/2008

Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Thursday, Aug., 28, that he has issued a state of emergency and requested a presidential pre-landfall disaster declaration in anticipation of possible problems related to Tropical Storm Gustav.

In addition, the Louisiana governor announced that the National Guard is beginning to activate 3,000 guardsmen, and the state has triggered several preparation measures to prepare for a potential evacuation and the shelter of residents.

Officials in New Orleans have said they’ll order a mandatory evacuation of the city if Gustav develops into a major hurricane and is on track to make landfall at or near the city within 60 hours.

That means New Orleans could have to make an evacuation decision as early as Saturday, Aug. 30. Current predictions are that the storm could make landfall somewhere on the Gulf Coast on Monday.

For more information on Louisiana’s disaster evacuation routes and guidelines, click here.

Tropical Storm Gustav closed in on Jamaica Thursday as it gained strength.

BP Amoco PLC and Shell Oil Co. have started evacuating workers from offshore drilling platforms in the Gulf, and the price of oil climbed to nearly $120 a barrel Thursday morning because of hurricane fears.

Diesel prices haven’t reacted yet to the spike in oil prices. ProMiles showed Thursday’s national average at $4.16 a gallon – down a penny from Wednesday’s average.

Kenneth Medlock, an energy expert and adjunct economics professor at Rice University, told The Associated Press that a run-up in gasoline prices as a storm approaches is not uncommon, prompted in part by fears of potential supply shortages in the storm’s wake.

The AP also quoted Jim Ritterbusch, president of energy consultancy Ritterbusch and Associates, as saying that any refinery shutdowns would likely lead to a spike in retail gas prices.

“There’s a strong chance that by Friday we could see some fairly significant pump price increases,” Ritterbusch said. “Crude can be replaced and brought in via tanker, but bringing a damaged refinery back up again can take a long time, as we saw with Katrina and Rita.”