NEW ORLEANS -- A large majority of offshore oil drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico could be dealing with hurricane conditions over the coming days as a storm continues to develop off Jamaica Thursday.
Tropical Storm Ida was forecast to move through northwestern Cuba Friday, then strengthen into a hurricane on Saturday morning as it entered the Gulf of Mexico.
That’s where over 2,000 oil rigs sit and just over 1,800 of them -- 89% -- now sit within the 5-day forecast cone issued by the National Hurricane Center.
But the platforms are designed to withstand the worst Mother Nature can throw at them. Those built since 1988 are designed to withstand "100 year storms" which includes severe waves and hurricanes up to Category 5, according to the National Ocean Industries Association.
The average platform deck height has to exceed the average height of major hurricane-driven swells, usually estimated around 80 feet, the NOIA says.
And when severe wind threats come, workers prep the rig by removing any equipment that could be knocked loose, before shutting down the drilling rig. They'll then be evacuated by helicopter to safety before the storm arrives.
The NOIA says the busy 2005 season was the last time there was significant damage to offshore platforms due to hurricanes. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 destroyed 113 platforms but nearly all had been built before the more stringent 1988 standards were implemented.