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Colonial Pipeline prepares as Hurricane Michael heads toward Florida Panhandle

Houston — Colonial Pipeline was operating normally as Hurricane Michael made landfall on the Florida Panhandle Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 hurricane.

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Colonial Pipeline said it was continuing normal operations as Hurricane Michael approached. Colonial's two main pipelines -- the 1.37 million b/d gasoline line and the 1.16 million b/d distillate line -- were "not in the line of the storm," Colonial said in a statement Wednesday.

However, Colonial is taking precautions on stubline Line 17 ahead of the storm. The line runs south from Atlanta to Bainbridge, Georgia.

"Plans are set to safely restore [service] promptly should Line 17 be forced to temporarily shut down due to a loss of power or for other reasons," the statement said.

Click here for full-size graphic

Colonial said that due to expectations of high winds and heavy rainfall in South Carolina and North Carolina, it is "on alert taking precautions to ensure safety of operations and personnel."

A Kinder Morgan spokeswoman said the company was monitoring Hurricane Michael and its impacts on its 700,000 b/d Plantation Pipe Line system, which carries refined products from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to just outside of Washington.

Kinder Morgan shut its Albany, Georgia, terminal ahead of the storm's arrival. The terminal, located just north of the Georgia-Florida border, has 93,000 barrels of storage and receives gasoline and ULSD from the Colonial Pipeline.

"The facilities that remain operational include: the Central Florida pipeline system, Plantation Pipe Line system, Southern Natural Gas, Elba Express pipeline, Elba Island LNG terminal and all other Kinder Morgan terminals," spokeswoman Katherine Hill said in a statement.

Gasoline inventories in the lower Atlantic region were ample at 28.75 million barrels for the week ended September 28, as were total distillate stocks, which totaled 12.14 million barrels, according to Energy Information Administration data.

The ports of Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, were at port condition Yankee, which means that gale force winds are expected within 24 hours, no incoming traffic is allowed and all vessels in port must depart within 12 hours.

In North Carolina, the port of Wilmington was at port condition X-Ray, which means that gale force winds are expected within 48 hours and the port is closed to incoming traffic without special permission, according to a note from the Moran Shipping Agency.

(Adds info on Kinder Morgan pipeline, facilities; port closures)

-- Janet McGurty in New York and Allen Reed in Houston,

-- Edited by Annie Siebert,