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Workers removed from oil platforms as hurricane threatens heavy rain, winds

Last Updated Jul 11, 2018 at 4:00 pm EDT

HALIFAX – ExxonMobil removed some of its workers from offshore oil platforms Wednesday as hurricane Chris advanced toward Atlantic Canada.

The Category 2 storm, which was churning out winds in excess of 155 kilometres per hour, was expected to track south of Nova Scotia early Thursday before possibly making landfall in eastern Newfoundland later in the day.

ExxonMobil said in a statement that an unspecified number of non-essential employees was taken off the Sable Offshore Energy facilities, which are near Sable Island, about 300 kilometres southeast of Halifax.

“We continue to monitor, but based on current forecasts we do not expect the storm to affect our offshore operations,” ExxonMobil spokesman Merle MacIsaac said in an email, referring to the Sable project.

He said they typically have about 150 people at the combined facilities, with about 90 personnel remaining offshore after the removals.

BP Canada also said it has disconnected and moved the West Aquarius exploration drilling rig.

Stacy O’Rourke, spokeswoman with the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, said it’s not uncommon for operators to remove staff from their work sites and that they are required to have contingency plans in place for adverse weather conditions.

“It’s not unusual at all,” she said. “Safety is paramount, so as a precautionary measure these steps were taken.”

Environment Canada says the storm will steer clear of Nova Scotia and veer toward Newfoundland before it is downgraded to a post-tropical storm late Thursday.

Hurricane Chris is expected to bring heavy rainfall and strong winds to the southeastern half of Newfoundland. It said total rainfall amounts could reach 70 millimetres, with the highest rainfall rates expected west of the Avalon peninsula.

Ocean swells along the southern coast of Newfoundland are expected to reach eight metres in some areas, while the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia could also receive swells of up to four metres.

In the United States, forecasters said Wednesday that beachgoers on the Atlantic coast should be wary of heavy surf and life-threatening rip-currents as Chris swirled off the U.S. East Coast.

The National Weather Service in Miami said the storm was headed northeast at about 35 km/h.