Tensions eased in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) Thursday, with shut-in numbers declining and workers preparing to head back to platforms, as Hermine, upgraded to hurricane status, made its long-awaited move toward the Florida coast.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) on Thursday afternoon estimated that 242,836 b/d, or 15.18% of the current oil production in the GOM was shut in, down from 19.52% on Wednesday, and 307 MMcf/d, or 9.03% of natural gas production, down from 10.59% 24 hours earlier.

Based on data from offshore operator reports submitted through 11:30 a.m. CDT Thursday, personnel remained evacuated from 10 production platforms, the same number as on Wednesday (see Daily GPI, Aug. 31), and 1.3% of the 750 manned platforms in the GOM, according to BSEE.

Personnel had been evacuated from one of the 11 rigs currently operating in the GOM — unchanged from Wednesday — and three DP rigs have been moved off location out of the storm’s path, two fewer than on Wednesday, BSEE said.

Despite Hurricane Hermine’s growing strength, operators west of the storm sounded decidedly more optimistic Thursday.

“As the storm is currently tracking further to the northeast, we are returning non-essential personnel back to the Marco Polo, Constitution and Heidelberg [operated floating] facilities,” Anadarko Petroleum Corp. said Thursday.

At 1:55 pm Thursday, Hermine was about 115 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola, FL, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, moving to the north-northeast at 14 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The storm was expected to increase its forward speed and maximum sustained winds, and was expected to become a hurricane by the time of landfall sometime late Thursday or early Friday.

Destin Pipeline, which began evacuating all nonessential personnel from its onshore facilities late last week (see Daily GPI, Aug. 29), said Thursday that weather conditions were preventing it from re-manning its Main Pass 260 platform, as was previously planned. Re-manning of the platform is planned for Friday, Destin said.

“Contingent on obtaining all required approvals to restart operations including completion of facility assessments, Destin will accept nominations for the Evening Cycle, September 3 for Gas Day September 3, 2016, with flows from all receipt points on the Okeanos Gas Gathering System, Marlin and Horn Mountain to commence at 9 a.m. on September 3, 2016,” Destin said. “Transportation service from these points will be offered to the VKGS system for onward deliveries and is dependent on downstream operations.”

NHC’s latest forecast calls for Hermine’s center to cross Florida on Friday and be over the North Carolina coast Saturday morning. A tropical storm warning had been extended from Englewood, FL, to the Flagler/Volusia county line.

“This storm will impact the majority of our state,” said Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who declared a state of emergency in 42 of the state’s counties on Wednesday. “Right now, we are concerned about storm surge in our coastal communities, wind, rain and tornadoes. We can expect storm surges beginning this afternoon along the Nature Coast and the Big Bend, wind speeds up to 75 mph, rainfall of up to 15 inches in some areas and tornadoes impacting Central and North Florida.”

Scott’s office said it expected Florida to see severe effects from Hermine beginning around 6 p.m. Thursday, with landfall at about 2 a.m. Friday.