By Adam Kerlin
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Coast Guard has put New York Harbor on alert ahead of a nor'easter that could affect operations at the largest terminal for oil shipments on the East Coast, a week after Hurricane Sandy forced its closure.
"The danger is not, per se, the rain or snow or sleet," Coast Guard spokesman Charles Rowe said. "It is the wind within our harbor, that's our concern."
While another harbor closure is not expected, Rowe said the agency will continue to closely monitor conditions throughout Wednesday and into Thursday.
New York Harbor is the biggest energy port on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, with tanks able to hold more than 75 million barrels of oil.
Some of the largest refineries and terminals supplied by shipments that come through the harbor are still operating below capacity as they deal with damages caused by Hurricane Sandy's storm surge.
Rowe said wind speed is the underlying cause for any actions taken to secure the harbor, but wind direction and flooding are also taken into account when deciding whether to restrict harbor activity.
For the captain of the port to have the option of closing the harbor completely, winds must reach 60 knots, or just under 70 mph.
Winds of 50 mph 43 knots) are forecast for New York City Wednesday night and could lead to some restrictions on ship movements, further hampering recovery efforts.
Last week's harbor closure, compounded by power outages, damages to the terminals and an oil spill, led to energy supply snags across the region.
In recent days, tankers have been lined up waiting to unload at the harbor and the northeast region has been attracting extra shipments of fuel from other U.S. ports.
At least five additional oil tankers moved into the New York Harbor fuel hub over the last few days as the flow of gasoline, diesel and other fuels gradually returned to normal eight days after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey.
(Reporting By Adam Kerlin; Editing by Joshua Schneyer and Leslie Gevirtz)