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Hurricane Harvey closes oil, gas operations as it spins deeper inland

Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Harvey spun deeper into Texas and unloaded extraordinary amounts of rain Saturday. The once-fearsome hurricane crashed into vulnerable homes and businesses along the coastline, killing at least one person and injuring up to 14.

OIL & GAS

Key oil and gas facilities along the Texas Gulf Coast have been temporarily shut down as Harvey pounds the region with torrential rain and high winds, virtually assuring gasoline prices will rise in the storm's aftermath.

Even before the Harvey made landfall late Friday, dozens of oil and gas platforms had been evacuated, at least three refineries had closed and at least two petrochemical plants had suspended operations.

Nearly one-third of the nation's refining capacity sits in low-lying areas along the coast from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Several refineries at greatest risk of suffering a direct strike from high winds have already shut down, but it is the potential for flooding in the Houston and Beaumont areas that could really pinch gasoline supplies.

Flooding and power outages caused by a storm surge are considered the biggest risk.

"The biggest driver of how much this will increase gas prices is how much rain falls in Houston during the next three days," Andy Lipow, president of consultant Lipow Oil Associates, said Saturday. "We are in a wait-and-watch mode."

Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

For now, Lipow is predicting gasoline prices will rise 10 cents per gallon east of the Rockies.

Tom Kloza, an analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, predicts an increase of 5 cents to 15 cents, assuming that the hurricane doesn't cause lasting damage to refineries.

THE HUMAN TOLL

Throughout the region between Corpus Christi and Houston, many people feared the human toll was only the beginning.

Authorities did not know the full scope of damage because weather conditions prevented emergency crews from getting into the hardest-hit places. And they dreaded the destruction that was yet to come from a storm that could linger for days and unload more than 40 inches of rain on cities, including dangerously flood-prone Houston, the nation's fourth-largest.

In the island community of Port Aransas, population 3,800, officials were unable to fully survey the town because of "massive" damage. Police and heavy equipment had only made it into the northernmost street.

Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

"I can tell you I have a very bad feeling and that's about it," said Mayor Charles Bujan, who had called for a mandatory evacuation but did not know how many heeded the order.

Some of the worst damage appeared to be in Rockport, a coastal city of about 10,000 that was directly in the storm's path. The mayor said his community took a blow "right on the nose" that left "widespread devastation," including homes, businesses and schools that were heavily damaged. Some structures were destroyed.

Rockport's roads were a mess of toppled power poles. A trailer blocked much of one major intersection. Wood framing from ripped-apart houses was strewn along Route 35 on the town's southern end.

Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Harvey's relentless wind tore the metal sides off the high school gym and twisted the steel door frame of its auditorium.

"We're still in the very infancy stage of getting this recovery started," said Aransas County spokesman Larry Sinclair.

Rockport Mayor Charles "C.J." Wax told The Weather Channel that the city's emergency response system had been hampered by the loss of cellphone service and other forms of communication.

The lone fatality confirmed so far was a person caught in a fire at home during the storm, Mills said. He did not identify the victim.

Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

THE NUMBERS

About 300,000 customers were without power statewide. Gov. Greg Abbott said it would probably be several days before electricity is restored.

Rainfall totals varied across the region, with Corpus Christi and Galveston receiving around 3 inches, Houston 7 and Aransas 10. Tiny Austwell got 15 inches.

Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Elsewhere in the storm's immediate aftermath, Coast Guard helicopters rescued 18 people from boats and barges in distress, said Capt. Tony Hahn, commander of the Corpus Christi sector.

The fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in more than a decade came ashore late Friday but weakened to a tropical storm by midday Saturday.

President Donald Trump on Friday signed a federal disaster declaration for coastal counties.

The last Category 4 storm to hit the U.S. was Hurricane Charley in August 2004 in Florida.

Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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Associated Press writers Michael Graczyk, Juan Lozano and Nomaan Merchant in Houston; Tammy Webber in Chicago; David Phillip in Dickinson, Texas; and Jamie Stengle, David Warren and Claudia Lauer and in Dallas contributed to this report.