U.S. Gulf of Mexico storm could reach hurricane strength Monday -NHC | Reuters

A weather disturbance off the tip of Florida could strengthen into a hurricane by Monday, bringing wind, heavy seas and flash flooding to the U.S. Gulf Coast, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The disturbance could become Tropical Storm Sally on Saturday as it moves up the eastern Gulf of Mexico dropping up to 6 inches (15 cm) of rain along the western Florida coast to Tampa, forecasters said.

Its current track will bring the fledging storm toward oil-producing areas in the central Gulf, where it could develop into a hurricane as soon as Monday. The latest NHC forecast calls for the storm's maximum sustained winds to reach 80 miles per hour (129 kph).

Chevron Corp was evacuating its Blind Faith and Petronius production platforms and preparing to halt output, a spokeswoman said. The company said its other Gulf of Mexico offshore platforms were operating normally.

Other oil and gas producers, many of which recently resumed offshore production after Hurricane Laura tore through the Gulf last month, said they were monitoring the storm and preparing to take action if needed.

“We are still outside the tee time to make a decision,” for most Gulf of Mexico producers, said Jim Foerster, chief meteorologist for DTN, an energy, agriculture and weather data provider. The storm could move slowly and change its current path over the next few days, he said.

The storm is not projected to approach the size or intensity of Laura, which hit the coast as a major hurricane with 150 mph winds, but it will bring up to 12-foot (4.2m) waves to offshore facilities, he said. (Reporting by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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